reflections on the water
Karen Burton Pickering

National Security and Wildlife Get a Boost

Barbara Kane looks out the door of her farmhouse and she sees more than the lovely view. With barns and paddocks and the splashes of red in the fall from oaks, maples, and wetlands, she’s connected deeply to the place so many wildlife call home. When asked about this place she reflects on her family’s connection to St. Lawrence County.

“My dad purchased this land after my brother took over our family farm, just down the road,” Barbara said. “I was able to continue the family legacy here in Rossie by purchasing the land after my dad passed away.”

Jane Scott also owns family land near Fort Drum. Her 110-acres property, like Barbara’s, is part of a larger ecological system in the area.

This year both Barbara and Jane conserved their land in partnership with the Army Compatible Use Buffer program (ACUB). Funded by the Department of Defense, and then matched with other grants when available, the ACUB program conserves important wildlife lands that buffer Fort Drum from incompatible development.

Landowners are compensated for retiring their development rights as outlined in a conservation plan at a price that reflects the appraised value.

They continue to own, manage, and pay taxes on their land but can never convert their land to development beyond what has been agreed upon in the conservation agreement.

“The Army’s mission is ever-evolving. As weapons systems and training tactics change, the Army’s use of the land changes,” explained Jason Wagner, Fort Drum Natural Resources Chief. “The Army is committed to the sustainable management of its lands to ensure high quality training environments are maintained while also conserving the environment through habitat management.

“Protecting the land around the installation from incompatible development is critical for the long-term sustainability of the installations mission to train our Soldiers,” Wagner said.

Timing is important, as development is chipping away at the woods, wetlands, and farms in the region.

“It’s a very strategic investment for our nation, and our region, to conserve these properties. We appreciate the opportunity to work with Ducks Unlimited, Fort Drum, and area landowners,” said JJ Schell, Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust’s Associate Director.

Over the past 11 years Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust has facilitated the protection of 8,451 acres of farms, woodlands and wetlands around Fort Drum as part of the ACUB program.