Photo: Bill Hecht

Partnership Expands State Forest in Tompkins County

The Land Trust acquired 50 wooded acres in the town of Caroline, bordering a 144-acre parcel which was purchased by the Land Trust in April.

Both parcels neighbor each other on Eastman Hill and together, link Danby State Forest to Coddington Road in the Willseyville Valley.

Photo: Bill Hecht

Photo: Bill Hecht

The purchase was made possible by a loan from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference’s Sidote Stewardship Fund. When state funding is available, the Land Trust will convey the property to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) as an addition to the adjacent Danby State Forest.

The acquisition will allow the NYSDEC to consolidate state land boundaries and enhance access to the state forest through frontage on Coddington Road. It will also serve as a safety net for the Finger Lakes Trail should the nearby trail route become compromised in the future.

In addition to its importance for recreation, the property is located in a habitat linkage protection priority area identified by both the Tompkins County 2007 Countywide Conservation Plan and the New York State Strategic Forest Management Plan. The White Church-Willseyville Swamp is an identified Tompkins County Unique Natural Area and serves as the headwaters to Catatonk Creek, a classified trout stream. This unique area is immediately downslope of the forested, steep, erodible hillsides on the property.

This recent acquisition expands the network of conserved lands known as the Emerald Necklace. The Emerald Necklace is an ambitious 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.  These lands host 78 miles of the Finger Lakes Trail, two Audubon-designated Important Bird Areas, and several dozen Tompkins County-designated Unique Natural Areas.  The Emerald Necklace is also recognized as a priority project within New York State’s Open Space Plan.

To date, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has worked cooperatively with the NYSDEC to conserve 11 parcels within the Emerald Necklace, including key additions to Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area and Yellow Barn State Forest.