Conservation Easement Donation Protects Scenic Family Land in the Southern Tier

The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) accepted the donation of a conservation easement protecting 182 acres in the town of Southport, Chemung County, from residents Stuart (Stu) and Lucy Schweizer.

Stu and Lucy have lived on the property since 1976 when they purchased their first 10 acres as parents of three young children. Over the following decades, they slowly acquired neighboring parcels that went up for sale in the area, colloquially known as “Dutch Hill.” A small 3.5-acre portion of their property is located in the adjacent town of Caton, Steuben County.

Entirely located within the Chemung River basin of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the property contains approximately 70 acres of forest, 12 acres of wetlands, and 16 acres of grassland that provide habitat for a diversity of birds and other wildlife. Agricultural fields on the property are leased to local farmers who harvest hay for their herd of beef cattle.

A large field with a pond in the distance

Photo: Amy Olney

The easement will protect these natural features by limiting development while still allowing for agricultural activities. The property also features approximately 4,400 feet of frontage on seasonal tributaries to nearby Mudlick Creek. Erodible soils that are adjacent to these waterways would be highly susceptible to accelerated stormwater runoff and erosion damage that could adversely affect water quality if trees and vegetation were removed or the soil disturbed.

“We love having had the privilege to live and raise our family in such a beautiful and unspoiled area,” Stu said. “We view the easement as the best means to ensure this area remains that way well beyond our lifetimes.”

Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements that permanently limit future land use in order to protect the land’s conservation value. Lands subject to conservation easements remain in private ownership, on local tax rolls, and available for traditional uses such as farming and hunting.

New York’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is comprised of the Susquehanna River and Chemung River watersheds. Protecting lands and waters in the Southern Tier is a critical focus of the Land Trust’s ongoing conservation efforts to improve water quality in the Finger Lakes region and beyond. Other protected lands in the area include the Land Trust’s Steege Hill and Plymouth Woods nature preserves as well as the Big Flats Wildlife Management Area, owned and managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.