Land Conservancy Event Celebrated Contributions from Members | Environment
The Western New York Land Conservancy held its 23rd annual Membership Meeting and Reception on Friday, May 16, at the Buffalo Yacht Club on Lake Erie. With 175 attendees, this was the most well-attended annual meeting in the Land Conservancy’s 23-year history.
The event began with a presentation from Congressman Brian Higgins. Congressman Higgins said, “Our region is so fortunate to have rich natural resources which bring economic and quality of life benefits to our community. I have had the opportunity to work with the Land Conservancy, an organization that has shown real leadership on projects like the Mill Road Scenic Overlook, to protect unique public spaces for generations to come. These preservation efforts are important in rural and urban areas alike. In Buffalo for example, we’ve really come to appreciate that the primary attraction at the waterfront is the water itself and we continue to strive to enhance and safeguard the natural experience at the water’s edge.”
This was followed by honoring the outstanding contributions of two Land Conservancy members, Bill Feasley of Eden and Chuck Rosenburg of Elma.
Feasley was recognized with the Henry J. Kreher Conservation Award for his passion and commitment to farmland conservation. Bill and his family farmed in Eden for over 70 years. He also served as a town board member and town supervisor, and helped pioneer an innovative transfer of a development rights program to preserve Eden’s productive farm soils. In 2013, Bill, along with his brother Bob, placed a conservation easement on their last remaining farmland – the Surgenor Farm.
Rosenburg was honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award for his extraordinary commitment to service with the Land Conservancy. Chuck is a senior wetlands ecologist at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. He has been leading hikes and owl prowls for the Land Conservancy for more than a decade, including the owl prowl that was recently filmed for Channel 2 News’ 2 the Outdoors. He also helps the Land Conservancy identify and explore new properties in need of protection.
After the award ceremony, the Land Conservancy elected and reelected several board members, including Michael Alspaugh, a resident of Buffalo who recently retired from the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning; Larry Brooks, a resident of Buffalo who recently retired from Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper; Deborah Fenn, a resident of Orchard Park and a retired high school teacher from West Valley Central School; David Hahn-Baker, a resident of Buffalo and a long-time community leader and environmental activist; Bart Roberts, a resident of Buffalo and a research assistant professor at UB’s Regional Institute; Margaret Wooster, a resident of Buffalo and an environmental planner at Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper; and Grace Meibohm, a resident of West Falls and owner of Meibohm Fine Arts in East Aurora.
After board elections, the Land Conservancy’s Executive Director, Nancy Smith, highlighted the organization’s work. In 23 years, the Land Conservancy has helped protect more than 6,000 acres of farms in forests in the region. A few recent success stories include the 60-acre Mill Road Scenic Overlook in Aurora, the 90-acre Meyer Farm in the fertile Eden valley, and two properties in Clarence, the 66-acre Rich Woods property and a 27-acre rare oak savannah.
At Stella Niagara, the Land Conservancy has already raised more than $2.3 million of the $3.2 million needed to create a new nature preserve on the Niagara River. In Niagara County, the Land Conservancy recently completed the Niagara Escarpment Legacy Project report and has identified several threatened properties in need of conservation. In Eden, the Land Conservancy has identified strategic farms that are excellent candidates for preservation.
Nancy emphasized that, “In each and every case, it takes a community of supporters to be the heroes. Land protection is only possible with the engagement and leadership of citizens, business owners, foundations and elected officials. We thank you all for guiding Western New York towards a future that celebrates and enhances its special places. We also thank Congressman Brian Higgins, the Buffalo Yacht Club, and the volunteers, board members and staff who worked to make this event possible. We are especially grateful to our sponsors and silent auction item donors.”
This year's event sponsors included Coulter Farms, Ecology & Environment, Inc., Holt Appraisals, Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., M&T Bank, Right Field Writing Works and West Herr Automotive Group, Inc., at the Gold level; Hodgson Russ, LLP, Otis Eastern Service, LLC, and Rupp, Baase, Pfalzgraf, Cunningham & Coppola, LLC at the Silver level; and Aurora Outfitters, Bonadio & Co., LLP, Evans Bank, Kreher’s Farm Fresh Eggs, LaBella Associates, D.P.C., and Richard Pohlman, Esq. Attorney at Law 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 envisions 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. Since 1991, the organization has protected more than 6,000 acres of open spaces throughout the region. 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.