fall foliage
Heidi Jones

Forests provide more than timber

It wasn’t that long ago when Tug Hill’s woodlands seemed to go on forever, a haven for people and wildlife alike.

Over the years, as has been the case in other rural areas, families have sold their land and family camps, increasing the risk of a slow but steady conversion to residential lots.

When land is sold and developed into smaller parcels Tug Hill’s wildlife becomes more vulnerable to the impacts of roads, traffic, and potential user conflicts. For some, like the shy and elusive bobcat that depends on solitude for survival, it can drive them out.

But there’s another way

Across the state, local families, hunting clubs, and conservation organizations like Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy are pursuing funding necessary to conserve critical lands.

One such example is a partnership between the Ton-Ka-Wa Rod & Gun Club, our land trust, and The Nature Conservancy. Over the past several years, we have worked with the Ton-Ka-Wa Rod & Gun Club to clarify if they were interested in conserving their 773-acre property in the Town of Ohio in Herkimer County.

The Club’s property is part of a major wildlife migration corridor in upstate New York and provides a natural buffer from future run-off, pollution, and extreme weather events for many of the streams within the Mohawk River Watershed.

bobcat in the snowClub member Chris Welch explained that their members recognized that “protection of this property not only provides habitat for wildlife moving between Tug Hill and the Adirondacks but also helps conserve the West Canada Creek, a tributary that flows through the property and into the Mohawk River.

“The river is a major recreational destination for the Mohawk Valley region, as well as a drinking water source for an estimated 100,000 Albany County residents. We wanted to do something that benefited the Club and the community.”

Because of the importance of the land and its location, The Nature Conservancy obtained a grant from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Water Quality Incentive Program to conserve the property.

The grant will compensate the Club, based upon a professional conservation appraisal that reflects restricting incompatible development and future division of their property. The land management goals include establishing stream buffers and restoring groundwater recharge areas to protect surface or groundwater drinking water sources.

The land continues to be owned and managed by the Club, remains on the tax rolls, and is not for public use other than what the Club permits.

As with all of the voluntary conservation agreements, technically referred to as a conservation easements, the conservation of the land will last for generations.

“There’s no way we could undertake the habitat projects we want to do, like improving the dams for ponds and enhancing wildlife habitat along streams, without this grant. We appreciate the opportunity to both conserve the land and restore some of the habitat,” explained Club member Heidi Jones.

As our region faces more extreme weather amplified by climate change, we will see increased periods of prolonged summer droughts interrupted by heavy rainfall that can lead to flooding.

Mark Pacilio, Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust’s Executive Director notes that “this type of partnership can play a pivotal role in enhancing water quality and improving stormwater resilience, using nature as a tool for change as well as conserving recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat. This is a win-win.”

Is conservation right for you, or someone you know?

Would you like to protect your land? Do you know someone who might be interested in protecting their farm, woodlands, or wetlands? 

protecting wildlife habitat
Jeannine Eckel

People protect their land for a variety of reasons. For many, it’s a way to ensure their love of the land will remain intact after they leave. For others, it’s a way to honor their parents and grandparents. Sometimes it helps with estate planning or financial management plans.

If you would like to explore if conservation is right for you and your family, contact JJ Schell, Associate Director/Land Protection Director at 315-779-8240 or email him at

All conversations are confidential to provide your family the privacy it needs to make a decision that is right for you.


protecting our water
Heidi Jones