CWC: Working With Landowners For Conservation

Are you familiar with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy? CWC is your local land conservation, watershed education and pollution prevention organization. Our mission is to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. The basis of our work is the scientific principle that clean waters drain from healthy, natural landscapes to provide healthy streams, lakes and drinking water supplies. The safety of the water you drink every day is dependent upon healthy, pollution-free landscapes collecting, filtering, storing and delivering water to your well, your community’s wells or your community’s drinking water reservoir stream. If you drink water, fish, swim, boat, paddle, sail, hunt, birdwatch, hike or snowshoe in Chautauqua County, then our work is important to you!

We employ the same conservation practices that organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited do, but donations made to the CWC go to working with local landowners to conserve wetlands and streams that provide waterfowl and trout habitat and clean waters to our lakes only here in Chautauqua County! Since 1995, the CWC (itself and partnering with the NYSDEC) has conserved over 1,100 acres countywide, including over two miles of the wild shoreline of Chautauqua Lake and the Chautauqua Lake Outlet. With only 10 percent of the lake’s shoreline remaining in a natural condition, conserving these sites has saved essential habitat to sustain fish and wildlife populations. If you are a birder or waterfowl hunter, you will be pleased to know that CWC has conserved 425 acres of wetlands to date, including several tracts on or near Chautauqua and Cassadaga Lakes and Cassadaga Creek. CWC’s shoreline and wetland conservation activities also strongly support Chautauqua Lake as a New York Audubon-designated Important Bird Area.

CWC accomplishes its work by providing public watershed education and, most importantly, working directly with landowners to assist them in conserving their lands or enhancing and restoring them as functional pollution filters and fish and wildlife habitat. Healthy streams need healthy wild corridors of trees, shrubs and wetland vegetation to filter the waters entering and passing through them. Stream life needs leaf litter and woody debris to support the food chain for trout and other fish, which then become the food for Kingfishers, Great Blue Heron and other birds, and even food for river otters. CWC encourages and provides technical assistance to lakeshore and stream bank owners to address erosion and restore natural habitats along waterways to filter pollutants and provide good habitats. Over the last six years, CWC has been very successful in persuading lakeshore owners to return their lakeshores to natural vegetation. Even a narrow strip of native lakeshore vegetation only 5-10 feet wide discourages geese and provides cover for reptiles and amphibians and habitat for insects important to the lake’s food web. To date, approximately 25 percent of property owners on Chautauqua Lake have at least a partial natural lakeshore buffer in place. In some neighborhoods along the northern basin, over 50 percent of the shoreline properties have natural buffers in place! CWC’s conservationists have been very active facilitating stream erosion control and habitat improvement projects, including projects on Goose Creek and Prendergast Creek and their tributaries, Ball Creek, as well as Clear Creek in Ellington. We partner with the County Soil & Water Conservation District, Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and County Department of Planning and Economic Development with the support of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation and Lenna Foundation to accomplish this stream work.

For 2018, CWC seeks to work with landowners to conserve 240 feet of lakeshore on Chautauqua Lake at Whitney Point, 50 acres with over 2,000 feet of Cheney Creek, 20 acres of wetlands near Big Inlet, 77 acres on Cassadaga Lake, 75 acres near Cassadaga Creek, and 24 acres on Cattaraugus Creek. CWC is also implementing its Starve the Algae, Save the Lake program for Chautauqua Lake to persuade residential landowners not to fertilize the lake and to identify and address nutrient and erosion hotspots polluting the tributaries to the lake.

CWC’s actions are primarily funded by membership donations. You can help maintain our outdoor heritage. These projects can only happen with your generous support. CWC’s 2017-18 Annual Membership Campaign is now underway. CWC’s office is in Jamestown, our employees are local residents, and our conservation actions are limited to projects within our county. Please consider calling the CWC at 664-2166 or giving at our website to support these projects. Donations to CWC may be tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by the IRS. Please call us or e-mail us at for more information on giving or volunteering.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit or