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Land Trust Protects Almost 700 Acres in Skaneateles Lake Watershed


The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT)  announced it has protected 690 acres at Jackson-Noel Farms in the town of Spafford, Onondaga County. With nearly two miles of scenic frontage on State Route 41, this is the largest conservation project completed in the Skaneateles Lake watershed since the establishment of New York State’s Bear Swamp State Forest.

Owned by Bill Jackson and Jeri Noel Jackson, the property is now protected by three separate conservation easements held by the FLLT. The easements allow for continued agricultural use, require the maintenance of vegetated stream buffers, and conserve more than 200 acres of woodlands on the farm.

Located in an area of increasing development pressure, the property includes a mosaic of fields and forests including steep hillside creeks containing 8,500 feet of streambank. Several creeks on the property flow directly into Skaneateles Lake, the unfiltered drinking water supply for 200,000 people, including the city of Syracuse.

Bill and Jeri grow high-quality organic hay sold locally and in the state of Virginia where they own an equestrian-related general store. Since purchasing their first farm parcel in 2016, they have taken great measures to amend soils on the property to grow orchard grass, timothy, clover, and rye.

The farm connects to a growing complex of conserved land within the Skaneateles Highlands including the FLLT’s Hinchcliff Family Preserve, one of the organization’s most beloved and well-visited nature preserves, which also connects to their High Vista Nature Preserve. The farm is also located in close proximity to the Staghorn Cliffs—a striking feature on the east side of Skaneateles Lake, where the FLLT has conserved nearly 2,000 feet of shoreline.

Additional conserved lands in this area include two state forests and approximately one dozen tracts of farmland protected with conservation easements granted to the FLLT, the New York Agricultural Land Trust, and Cortland County. With the completion of this latest project, the FLLT has now conserved more than 2,945 acres within the Skaneateles Lake watershed.

“We’re very grateful to Bill and Jeri Jackson for conserving their farm,” said Land Trust Director of Conservation Max Heitner. “It is a beautiful property and we couldn’t be happier to secure it for continued agricultural use and water quality protection in the Skaneateles Lake watershed.”

Funds for two of three perpetual conservation easements to protect the property came from the state’s Farmland Protection Implementation Program (FPIG), administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Additional funding for the third easement came from contributions to the FLLT’s Finger Lakes Forever capital campaign.

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.

By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected over 30,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland. The FLLT owns and manages a network of over 45 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 183 properties that remain in private ownership.

The FLLT focuses on protecting critical habitat for fish and wildlife, conserving lands that are important for water quality, connecting existing conservation lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. The organization also provides programs to educate local governments, landowners, and residents about conservation and the region’s unique natural resources.

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