As a conservationist, my job sometimes involves talking to land owners and providing information and options to help them make decisions which will protect their enjoyment and use of their land, while also protecting the Chautauqua watershed from further damage. But for some land owners, the word conservation means they will have to give up their rights to strangers who have no real interest in the land that these owners have cared for, enjoyed and protected, often for generations.
But one of the definitions of conservation is the ''preservation or restoration from loss, damage, or neglect.'' Land conservation is meant to keep property in a natural state, with proper management to protect it from damage. You value these places where you have lived and raised a family, that you have farmed, logged and hunted ... where you know the roll of the hills and the way the wind blows around that one stand of trees stronger than anywhere else. And like watching over a child in your care, you want these lands to grow and change, but we also want to protect them from harm.
Conservation has a range of meaning. It can mean anything from complete isolation from human intervention or use to open enjoyment by the public for educational and recreational purposes. But somewhere in between, there is a compromise that allows landowners to enjoy their land now and still protect it from being turned into a shopping plaza or subdivision when they are gone. Watershed conservation means conserving water and keeping it clean through best land management practices, such as reducing erosion by managing stream banks or planting along the lakeshore. But this type of conservation doesn't mean you can't build on it or cut firewood or hunt or farm, within the guidelines of good conservation techniques.
The Randy Allan Hendrickson Watershed Preserve is one of many CWC?protected lands in the county.
Photo by Deb Raynor
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a county-wide organization with a mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. We strive to keep trout streams running clear and cold, with plenty of insects for food in the shade of the woods. We work to show landowners how they can slow down the torrents of stormwater runoff which have been etching a gorge closer and closer to their house. We work with lakeside residents to create a natural barrier from erosion that will keep their shore intact while also preventing storm runoff full of silt and nutrients from running into the lake and feeding algae blooms. Our staff and volunteers work to protect dwindling wetlands as habitat for ducks and other wildlife, to educate school kids about the importance of water, and to show visitors and residents alike the beauty of this region. Protecting your property is part of our commitment to the environment and to our community.
There's nothing I like better than walking with a property owner as they show me the special places of their land and tell me the history of their place. Recently, I was told I have topophilia, and I was overjoyed at the diagnosis. Topophilia is the love of place, or literally, ''a love of the land,'' and I hope it's contagious. Let's go for a walk and see how I can help you conserve the land you love.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy presently has its 2011-12 membership drive under way and is seeking donations to conserve the Wells Bay Lakeshore. To support these efforts or for more information on CWC's healthy landscaping for healthy waters efforts, visit our website at www.chautauquawatershed.org, or call 664-2166.