The Western New York Land Conservancy held its 22nd annual Membership Meeting and Reception on Friday, June 7, at the Main House on the grounds of the beautiful Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora. With more than 150 people from throughout Western New York attending, it was one of the most successful events in the history of the Land Conservancy.
The event began by honoring the outstanding contributions of two Land Conservancy members, Michael B. Powers and Edward Fuchs.
Powers, an attorney at Phillips Lytle LLP and town justice for Clarence, was awarded the 2013 Henry J. Kreher Conservation Award. Land Conservancy Emeritus Board member David Floyd, said “Mike Powers made the Clarence Greenprint — a $12.5 million bond to fund open space preservation that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2002 and renewed in 2012 — a reality.” Funds from the Clarence Greenprint have already helped protect more than 1,300 acres of farms and forests. The program even helped increase the Town of Clarence’s municipal bond rating.
Fuchs, a member and past president of the Niagara Frontier Botanical Society and a resident of East Aurora, was awarded the 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award. Executive Director Nancy Smith said “Ed Fuchs’ selfless commitment to service, to conservation, and to environmental education make our region a better place to live.” Among his many contributions, Ed volunteers as a preserve steward at the Cazenovia Creek Nature Sanctuary in East Aurora. He also helps lead botanical tours on Land Conservancy preserves.
After the award ceremony, the Land Conservancy elected and re-elected several board members. Larry Brooks, a North Buffalo resident and retired Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper staff member, was elected to his first full term on the board. Jessica Owley, a professor from the University at Buffalo Law School, presented on the impacts of climate change on land conservation, and was elected to her first term on the board.
Those re-elected to serve second terms included Land Conservancy President Kathy Lasher, a CPA from the Town of Aurora who was the operations and finance director at MassMutual's Buffalo agency for 20 years; Land Conservancy Vice President Paul Lehman who lives in North Tonawanda and, although retired after working nearly 38 years as the agriculture and community issues program leader for Cornell University Cooperative Extension in Niagara County, currently serves as the interim director for the Cooperative Extension of Orleans County; and Land Conservancy Treasurer Rick Vilonen who is from the Town of Amherst, owns Ben Brook Farm, and is the chair of the Amherst IDA.
After board elections, Nancy Smith highlighted some of the Land Conservancy’s current projects. In 2012, the Land Conservancy reached a milestone; they protected their 5,000th acre of land. To build on that momentum, this year the Land Conservancy began working to create the Stella Niagara Preserve on an exceptional ecologically and culturally significant property on the Niagara River in Lewiston. The property is the third longest privately owned river frontage in Niagara County. It will be the first nature preserve along the Niagara River to be owned and operated by a not-for-profit organization.
Also this year, as part of the Niagara Escarpment Legacy Project in Niagara County, the Land Conservancy began working with community stakeholders, landowners, scientists from Ecology & Environment, and members of the Niagara Frontier Botanical Society to complete the first systematic, multi-site inventory of plants and animals ever done in this geologically and ecologically unique landscape. The Niagara Escarpment Legacy Project also includes many acres of grassland restoration and will result in the protection of new properties along the Escarpment.
At the finale of the event, many attendees joined Chuck Rosenburg, a renowned local biologist and owl expert, on an owl prowl of Knox Farm State Park. They all got to see a pair of Eastern Screech Owls fly in and call to each other in the trees overhead. It was a perfect way to end an exceptional evening.
This year's event sponsors included Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, Holt Appraisals, Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., and M&T Bank at the Gold level; AXA Advisors, Otis Eastern Service, Inc., Phillips Lytle LLP, and Rupp, Baase, Pfalzgraf, Cunninghum & Coppola, LLC at the Silver level; and Astronics Corporation, Daily's Custom Gourmet Catering, Farmers and Artisans, Gaines Kriner Elliott, LLP, Kreher's Farm Fresh Eggs, and Regency Builders, LLC at the Bronze level.
The Western New York Land Conservancy is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York for future generations. The Land Conservancy envision a future in which open spaces, working lands, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty are cherished and protected as part of the landscape and character of Western New York. The Land Conservancy is one of 1,700 land trusts nationwide, including 90 in New York State. Land trusts have protected 40 million acres over the last 20 years.
For more information on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, or the mission of the Western New York Land Conservancy, please call 687-1225, email email@example.com or visit www.wnylc.org.