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Strategic Land Conservation Plan

Conserving and restoring as much of our natural open spaces in forests and wetlands as possible is essential to the future health of our waterways, fish and wildlife and to help fight climate change. 


But how do you know which sites are the most important in terms of ecological, hydrological or scenic value and, therefore, which ones should be prioritized for conservation?


In 2021, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy sought to answer that question by undertaking a multi-factor geographic information system (GIS) computer analysis of lands within the Chautauqua Lake watershed. Using 11 ecological and hydrological criteria, we produced a land cover map of the 180-square mile lake watershed which determined the percentages of forest and wetland cover in each town as a measurement of the land cover quality of each. 

This map shows a preliminary prioritization of lands across the watershed, with lands in dark orange being lowest priority, yellow being moderate priority and greens and blues being the highest priority. Some of the factors included whether or not lands were within 300 feet of a stream, whether they were flood plains, wetlands, steep slopes or interior forest, whether known significant habitat areas were present and whether land was adjacent to existing conserved lands such as nature preserves and state wildlife management areas. 

Priority Conservation Map 12.8.21 (CWC image).jpg

In 2023, we will be using a NYS Conservation Partnership Program grant and other funding to expand this priority conservation landscape analysis across the entirety of Chautauqua County. As part of this expanded project, we will also be developing a Collaborative Regional Conservation Implementation Strategy (for Chautauqua County) to help us and our partners prioritize regional conservation, land use and economic development efforts. This will allow for better prioritization of the region’s scarce conservation dollars by applying funding where it will have the greatest impact on water quality. We will be presenting this data to communities and encouraging input as well as reaching out to the owners of the highest priority landscapes, municipal leaders and other stakeholders to introduce them to the various opportunities and benefits associated with conserving these high priority lands. 


The ultimate goal of this project is to form a road map to recognition and protection of our most valued natural resources, areas of scenic beauty, and biological diversity, which will help to ensure that Chautauqua County and its residents will enjoy a greener, more beautiful, and more resilient future! 

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