Written by Marci Diehl, Democrat & Chronicle, link to original post
Finger Lakes Land Trust acquires new properties to conserve for nature walks, birding adventuresIt’s some of the most unspoiled, spectacularly beautiful and ecologically important land in the state. And if all goes according to plan, it will be accessible to the public for low-impact uses like hiking, kayaking, fishing and bird-watching.
In the past year, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has acquired two important pieces of land overlooking Canandaigua Lake and adjacent to the West River — the lake’s principal tributary — adding to the group’s growing list of acquisitions and conservation easements. The goal is to link a crescent of land extending from Bare Hill southward through South Hill to High Tor and the highlands surrounding Naples.
This is serene land that is teeming with wildlife, forests, waterfalls and flora — and facing watershed and potential erosion problems if developed. The proposal to create a Canandaigua Lake water trail and birding trail could prevent some of these issues for generations to come.
The newest acquisition is a 68-acre property that encompasses a 390-foot cove beach on the east side of Canandaigua Lake, along with extensive woodlands on Bare Hill. Last year, the trust acquired 13 acres adjacent to the entrance to the Bare Hill State Unique Area. And in 2011, Constellation Brands donated 64 acres of an abandoned vineyard in the town of Italy at the south end of the lake — land that the National Audubon Society designated an “Important Bird Area.” Over the summer, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will cultivate native grasses to create a grassland area connecting with the state’s emergent wetlands of the West River.
The more that people can see land and experience it, the more connected they become to conserving it, says Andrew Zepp, executive director of the trust. The organization’s goal, he says, is to “work cooperatively with landowners and local communities to maintain the character of this area, while enhancing opportunities for outdoor education and recreation.”
Connecting these preserved lands to the DEC’s High Tor Wildlife Management Area is significant. High Tor’s 6,100 acres encompass habitats, wooded hills, cliffs and marshlands in the West River Valley — along with South Hill’s 1,000 acres of wooded hillsides.
And the West River contains one of the largest wetlands in the state — a popular area for kayakers and canoeists.
Bruce Lindsay has managed 700 acres on the top of South Hill for 43 years, and he sees some species actually returning to former habitats, including porcupines, black bears, coyotes, foxes and wild turkeys.
“Turkey vultures with five-foot wing spans soar above the hill,” Lindsay says. “On rare occasions, eagles are seen here. Goldfinch, blue birds, bobolinks and the rare indigo bunting fill the fields. It’s a birder’s paradise.”
The two southeastern hills of the lake are largely undeveloped. Naples resident Kevin Armstrong donated 32 acres of woodland in the area, on steep property along South Hill above the West River.
“There are many people who would see the land as something to be developed just for the views alone,” Armstrong says.
Lindsay, too, is passionate about protecting this land the Seneca people held sacred.
“In the 21st century, we still have an opportunity to ‘do no harm,’ ” he says. “There are vast areas surrounding this lake that still are pristine. The challenge is to do no harm for the future of pure water, appropriate but not unchecked development, and, yes, just space to enable natural beauty to be the essence.”