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A Message From New Executive Director Whitney Gleason

Yesterday (February 15, 2023) was a historic day for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy. After months of planning and preparation, our Co-founder and Executive Director of over 30 years handed me the baton. I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to lead this organization in its next chapter.

When I first interned with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy back in 2013, I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. Back then I was inspired by the mission and the Executive Director, Mr. John Jablonski III, who simply radiated his excitement and dedication to the work of protecting our County’s waterways and natural places. Fast forward 10 years to today, and I am still inspired by our mission and the dedication of John, our board, and our staff.

So much has been accomplished, including the protection of over 1,100 acres of land and establishment of 32 nature preserves, partnership on successful erosion control projects throughout the County, and countless education programs. But there is important work yet to be done.

Yesterday was a big day, but 2023 is going to be an even bigger year for our organization. As I move into my new role, I am looking forward to a renewed focus on setting us up for strength, stability, and effectiveness for many years to come. We are currently in the midst of application and review by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission in order to become a nationally accredited land trust. Not only does accreditation reaffirm our commitment to the highest standards for land conservation, it also provides access to new funding opportunities and resources. This is especially important as New York State rolls out plans for achieving the 30x30 legislation signed back in December.

In addition to accreditation, we are in the process of finalizing our Collaborative Regional Conservation Implementation Strategy (CRCIS) for Chautauqua County. Using high resolution mapping we can better understand and view our County as a whole, pin-pointing the most important areas for conservation while identifying opportunities for low impact development. As more people throughout the Country recognize the beauty and environmental resources of our region, it is going to be vital that we partner strategic growth with strategic conservation.

While pursuing these two major initiatives we will also be continuing to work and partner with individuals, businesses, and municipalities throughout our community. This includes our work with homeowners through our LakeScapes program, expanding our waterway restoration projects, and working with partners to control new invasive species before they become established on our lands and in our waters.

It’s going to be a busy year, and I couldn’t be more excited to get started. I hope you’ll join me in this next chapter as we continue working toward the mission that captured my attention all those years ago.



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