Ithaca, NY. The Finger Lakes Land Trust accepted the donation of two conservation easements in the town of Elmira, Chemung County from local community leader, George Howell shortly before he passed away this fall.
The two easements protect over 200 acres of meadows and woodlands that are immediately adjacent to Quarry Farm which once served as a summer home and writing retreat for Samuel Clemens, the writer well-known as Mark Twain.
In 1869, Quarry Farm was purchased by Samuel Clemens’ sister in law, Susan Langdon Crane and her family. Parcels of the original farm where broken up and sold until, over a period of time, George Howell purchased most of it. The Clemens family used the property as a summer home for 20 years, where Mark Twain spent much of his time writing. Works completed there include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which are widely considered to be masterpieces of American literature.
Protection of the property serves to maintain the historic context of the adjacent farmhouse originally owned by the Langdon family and listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the house is now owned by Elmira College as a residence for visiting Mark Twain scholars. The land is of further conservation significance because it is adjacent to property owned by the City of Elmira Water Board, is visible from nearby Interstate 86, and encompasses steep forested hillsides above the Chemung River Valley.
The Howell property includes mature oak hickory forest as well as two ponds and a scenic meadow directly in front of the Quarry Farm home. The tract also contains 1,500 feet of frontage on Watercure Brook – a tributary to the Chemung River. The conservation easement agreement will help ensure water quality within the Chemung Basin as well as the Susquehanna River, which is the largest single source of water to the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary.
George Howell passed away shortly after the conservation easement agreements were completed. He was well known as the third generation of the Howell family to lead the Elmira-based F.M. Howell & Company. Of great importance to George throughout his life was his service to the Elmira community. Among his numerous good works, he served on the Trustee Council of the Preservation League of New York, was a founding board member of Historic Elmira, Inc., and served as a Trustee of the Chemung County Historical Society.
“George’s donation of these conservation easements capped years of his effort in securing the lands around Quarry Farm,” says Land Trust Executive Director. “He has left a remarkable legacy for the community and we’re honored to have the opportunity to help continue his tradition of sound land stewardship.”
This project is part of an ongoing effort by the Finger Lakes Land Trust to conserve lands within the Chemung River Valley. The Howell properties represent the third and fourth conservation easement held by the Land Trust in Chemung County which is also home to the organization’s 800-acre Steege Hill Preserve – a popular destination for hikers and cross country skiers.
Conservation easements are legal agreements that limit future development while allowing land to remain in private ownership and on the tax rolls. Conservation easements typically limit subdivision and development while allowing for traditional uses such as agriculture and forestry. Landowners who donate conservation easements may be eligible for both state and federal tax benefits, including New York’s Conservation Easement Property Tax Credit, which provides for annual reimbursement of 25% of property taxes paid on land for which an easement has been donated.
The Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected more than 18,000 acres of our region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, majestic forest, and scenic farmland. The Land Trust today owns and manages a network of 36 conservation areas that are open to the public and holds conservation easements on more than 100 properties that remain in private ownership.
The Land Trust focuses on protecting critical habitat and land that is important for water quality, connecting conserved lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. The organization also provides programs to educate local governments, landowners, and local residents about conservation tools and the region’s unique natural resources. The Land Trust’s service area includes 12 counties that encompass the Finger Lakes and a significant portion of the Southern Tier. Additional information on the Land Trust may be found at www.fllt.org.