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Erie County Parks, partners collaborate to protect, preserve Concord land parcel


Mon, Nov 23rd 2015 11:00 am

Donated 225-acre parcel will be used to help connect over 1,000 acres of publicly accessible land at headwaters of 18 Mile Creek

Deputy Erie County Executive Maria Whyte and Deputy Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Greg Olma were joined by elected officials, representatives of the Nature Conservancy and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and parks enthusiasts late last week to announce the recent donation of over 200 acres of forested property located in the Town of Concord. The area will be dedicated as park land, a designation that ensures the parcel will remain forever as protected and preserved public land.

Erie County's Parks Department will maintain and monitor this crucial parcel, which connects more than 1,000 acres of publicly accessible forests at the headwaters of 18 Mile Creek. The Nature Conservancy and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper collaborated to obtain grant funding and private donations to acquire the 225-acre property, which increases the amount of total forestry lot acreage in Erie County's inventory by approximately 8 percent.

"The opportunity to preserve this acreage for public use not only adds to Erie County's total forestry, but is also consistent with natural habitat protection initiatives stated in the 'Initiatives for a Smart Economy,' " Whyte said. "Our parks are a significant part of the legacy we will leave to our children and grandchildren and, thanks to strong partnerships, this land will now be available in perpetuity for residents to enjoy."

Other forestry lots in Erie County are used for purposes such as bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and cross country skiing. This previously privately owned parcel in the Town of Concord provides habitat for more than 150 species of birds, 30 species of trees and 14 types of shrubs.

"The 18 Mile Creek project was a rare opportunity to protect a mature and intact forest that helps keep the community's drinking water clean and plentiful," said Jim Howe, the Nature Conservancy's executive director in Central and Western New York. "About 90 percent of Erie County's population gets their drinking water from Lake Erie and the Niagara River. We were excited to team up with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and Erie County to ensure that this special and beautiful place provides countless services to people. Forests are natural water filters and rejuvenating places to explore. We're thrilled that the 18 Mile Creek forest will be available for snowshoeing, hiking and bird watching while it protects water quality at its source."

"The successful acquisition and protection of these critical headwater forests is the culmination of three years of scientific research, planning, fundraising and negotiation," said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. "Our new partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Erie County is another innovative and effective approach to implementing the ambitious goals of our regional habitat conservation strategy. This site, combined with the adjacent forestry tracts, will create a new opportunity for a learning laboratory, public recreation, and will protect precious local drinking water for generations to come."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Joint Venture Habitat Restoration and Protection Program provided over $170,000 in grant funds to support this project, with other donations from individuals around New York also supporting the acquisition.

"We are pleased to partner with the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the Nature Conservancy and Erie County to protect the water quality of 18 Mile Creek and the Niagara River, and to expand the network of conserved lands in this region," said Colleen Sculley of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The forests and wetlands on this property provide critical habitat for land and waterbirds that use the Niagara River watershed, a region designated as a nationally important area for birds."

The 18 Mile Creek forest consists of a mature mixed hardwood forest overlying a glacial moraine aquifer that feeds a trout stream. Because of this location, the forest filters fresh water, creating a healthy and supportive living environment for local trout populations and other wildlife. Protecting this forest secures a key connection to over 1,000 acres of headwater forest, creating connected landscapes of open space to benefit the public.

For more information on the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, visit http://www2.erie.gov/parks/.

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