Ninety-eight people were in attendance for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s 2022 annual meeting held on August 3rd at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, with CWC Ecological Restoration Manager Twan Leenders as the featured speaker.
Leenders presentation about protecting Chautauqua County’s natural resources and scenic beauty highlighted the connection between water quality and the quality of upland habitat. Leenders noted that research shows a watershed needs 70% forest cover and 5% or less of impervious surfaces in order to minimize stream degradation and maintain and maximize water quality in both streams and lakes. The Chautauqua Lake watershed is estimated to be in only 66% overall forest/wetland cover. He reported that CWC has undertaken an analysis to identify and prioritize sites of highest value for conservation across the Chautauqua Lake watershed to protect its water quality and ecology. CWC is currently undertaking this analysis county-wide and invites input from landowners, local leaders, birders, hunters and fisherpersons and other stakeholders in this process. He stressed the need to objectively identify the most important areas for preservation and restoration in the region and align those with funding opportunities to maintain and restore the ecological functionality of those sites for water quality, habitat protection for fish and wildlife and climate resiliency across the Chautauqua Region. Restoration efforts also need to include the training of lake stewards and efforts to both prevent and manage invasive species.
CWC Executive Director John Jablonski III presented an accomplishments report which included the Conservancy’s conservation of an additional 21 acres of land, an additional 223 LakeScapes landscaping consultations and an additional 4,500 visitor sign-ins at CWC preserves. Jablonski also noted that CWC launched its Chautauqua County Wildlife Habitat Project during the past year to certify the county as a community wildlife habitat with the National Wildlife Federation. The project aims to make the county a healthier, greener and more wildlife-friendly community by creating or protecting habitat that is beneficial to birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife and, in doing so, encourage both local and migrating wildlife to visit and thrive here. Funding has also been secured to complete the CWC’s Fish Hawks & Steelhead Habitat Conservation Campaign, which will permanently conserve 71 acres of land at locations on Goose Creek and Chautauqua Creek to help provide and protect critical habitat for local osprey, bald eagle and steelhead populations. Closing on these sites is anticipated for this fall.
The meeting also included an election of new and renewing board directors. Kaitlyn Bentley, Janis Bowman, Dennis Collins, Christine Flanders, Rebecca Nystrom, Craig Seger, Mary Beth Southwick and Jeanne Wiebenga were each elected to the board for new terms.
It was also announced that John Jablonski III will be stepping down from his position as CWC executive director and assuming a part-time special projects manager position with the organization in February of 2023. Whitney Gleason, CWC’s Director of Development, will be promoted to executive director.