ITHACA, NY –– The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) Expands Land Protection Project in Owasco Lake Watershed. On June 17, the organization announced that it had protected 93 acres of watershed shared between Cayuga and Tompkins counties with a conservation easement – in addition to a previous easement in the area.
The conservation easement legally restricts future development while allowing private ownership of the land. According to the FLLT website, landowners who donate conservation easements may be eligible for state and federal tax benefits.
Given from the Katherine Sutphin property in 2019, “The property includes wetlands, agricultural fields, mature forests and 4,710 feet of frontage on Owasco Inlet and an unnamed tributary,” the FLLT website says. “This natural area serves as a habitat for a variety of terrestrial and aquatic fauna. Protecting the land in this area also preserves the water quality of Lake Owasco by filtering runoff to the entrance.
This is not the first land that FLLT has acquired in this region – in October 2020, they acquired 38 acres in the Owasco Plains, which serve as a vital buffer for the lake’s water quality. FLLT plans to partner with the US Fish & Wildlife Service to tackle wetland restoration efforts at the property throughout 2021.
The land protection projects are part of an effort to address the larger water quality problem in Cayuge and Tompkins counties. Owasco Lake is “affected by bacteriological contamination and excessive growth of aquatic vegetation and algae. Sources of bacteria include wildlife and waterfowl, agricultural runoff and residential septic systems, ”although this source is minimal according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
DEC is working to reduce the amount of bacteria and pollutants in the lake and this latest acquisition by FLLT will be a major help. Owasco, along with Cayuga Lake, are both part of a larger Finger Lakes monitoring program due to pollutants and harmful algal blooms (HABs) that occur and ultimately affect water quality.
General bacterial contamination and HABs also affect recreational uses of lakes. Physical contact with lake water, especially near HABs, is strongly discouraged and boaters and fishermen are encouraged to be aware of this. If an HAB is observed, individuals are encouraged to contact [email protected] or call the Community Science Institute at (607) 257-6606.