Photo: Bill Hecht

Land Acquisition Advances Protection of Skaneateles Lake

Ithaca, NY–The Finger Lakes Land Trust acquired 145 acres of woodland, fields, and wetlands bordering Bear Swamp Creek – the largest tributary to Skaneateles Lake.

The property is located in the town of Niles, Cayuga County. It had been identified as a priority for protection due to its frontage on the creek, the quality of its natural habitat, its value to the health of Skaneateles Lake, and its proximity to existing protected lands.

Photo: Bill Hecht

Photo: Bill Hecht

This latest acquisition features 1,600 feet of frontage on Bear Swamp Creek as well as frontage on both sides of Bear Swamp Road. Fields bordering the road are backed by hardwood forest, with wetlands adjoining the creek. The property is bordered by Bear Swamp State Forest on two sides. Bear Swamp Creek is recognized as one of the region’s most pristine watercourses.

With this purchase, the Land Trust has now protected five properties along the creek and four miles of streambank. Other protected lands include New York State’s Carpenter’s Falls Unique Area, the Land Trust’s Bahar Nature Preserve, and three privately owned parcels that are secured through perpetual conservation easements held by the Land Trust.

The property was acquired in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and will be added to the adjacent Bear Swamp State Forest when funds are available. Bear Swamp is recognized as one of New York’s Important Bird Areas and is identified as a priority project in the state’s Open Space Plan. The state forest is a popular destination for outdoor recreation and hosts an extensive network of multi-use recreational trails.

Funding for the acquisition was provided by a grant from the Allyn Foundation and an allocation from the Land Trust’s “Forever Fund” – an internal fund that is used to facilitate time sensitive acquisition projects. In the future, when the land is sold to New York State, proceeds from the sale will be returned to the “Forever Fund” to enable additional conservation projects.

“We’re grateful for the generous support of the Allyn Foundation and all of our members for making this project possible,” says Land Trust Executive Director Andy Zepp. “This is a terrific acquisition that helps ensure Skaneateles Lake’s water quality, protects critical habitat for fish and wildlife, and enhances public access for outdoor recreation.”

Bear Swamp and its namesake creek are located within a proposed greenbelt that will ultimately extend around the southern half of Skaneateles Lake. On the eastern side of this greenbelt, the Land Trust’s 200-acre Hinchcliff Family Preserve stretches for a mile on the hillside overlooking the lake and features a 1.4 mile hiking trail. Ongoing efforts are focusing on the use of conservation easements to secure other hillside parcels in this area, and adjacent to Bear Swamp State Forest.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected more than 19,000 acres across the Finger Lakes region and the Southern Tier. The non-profit Land Trust works in partnership with landowners and local communities to conserve those lands that are vital to the integrity of the region. The organization today owns and manages a network of 33 conservation areas that are open to the public and holds conservation easements on more than 120 properties that remain in private ownership. Additional information about the Land Trust may be found at