Photo: Tom Reimers

Land Trust Protects Over 60 Acres Bordering Hammond Hill State Forest

The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) today announced it has permanently protected 64 acres in the town of Dryden, Tompkins County with a conservation easement. Owned by Susan Compton and John Saylor, the property is nestled in a small valley on the southern side of Hammond Hill State Forest, a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and cross-country skiers.

Sue and John donated the easement to the FLLT, and other associated costs were covered by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Grant Program for Riparian Buffer Protection and Restoration, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Two people and a dog looking at their property

Photo: Michael Ludgate

Their property includes woodlands bordering the state forest, fields maintained for wildlife habitat, and the headwaters of the West Branch of Owego Creek, a high-quality brook trout stream. Sue and John worked with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2019 to restore creek habitat and with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition to plant trees on 3.7 acres in 2020.

The conservation easement will protect the property against subdivision and safeguard the restored stream corridor, improving water quality in Owego Creek and further downstream in the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.

“We both strongly support the mission of the Finger Lakes Land Trust and are placing our land in a conservation easement for several reasons,” said Sue and John. “Our property is a visual extension of the Hammond Hill State Forest, is home to two streams that feed the Susquehanna River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay, is a habitat for a variety of wildlife and plants, and contains woodlands that would have been vulnerable to logging. We are grateful the FLLT enables us to protect all of the above for future generations.”

In addition to Hammond Hill State Forest, this newly-conserved property joins a large complex of protected lands including Robinson Hollow State Forest, Cornell University’s Slaterville 600 Natural Area, and the FLLT’s Goetchius Wetland and Roy H. Park preserves. This area lies within the Emerald Necklace, an effort to link 50,000 acres of existing public open space that extends in an arc around Ithaca—from Finger Lakes National Forest in the west to Hammond Hill and Yellow Barn state forests in the east.

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.