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Conservancy makes deal to protect North Tonawanda wetlands

NORTH TONAWANDA – The Western New York Land Conservancy announced Friday it has made an agreement with the Buffalo Audubon Society to protect most of the Klydel Wetlands in North Tonawanda.

The sides agreed to a conservation easement for about 28 acres of the 36-acre wetland zone owned by the Audubon Society, which officially calls it the North Tonawanda Audubon Nature Preserve. It’s one of the largest areas of open space left in the city.

The easement is a legal document that bars the 28 acres from ever being developed. The Land Conservancy has been able to use conservation easements to protect some other parcels of land in the region.

“Klydel Wetlands is an incredibly important natural asset for everyone in North Tonawanda,” said Liz Kaszubski, founder of Citizens for a Green North Tonawanda, a community group that spearheaded efforts to create the preserve.

The site includes mature forests intermingled with seasonal pools and hosts numerous species of wildlife, including the small Eastern Screech Owl, which nests in tree cavities there. The Audubon Society hosts occasional “owl prowls” for hikers to hear the bird’s distinctive cry.

The Audubon Preserve is open to the public through walking trails that can be accessed from Fairfield, Wurlitzer and Sunset drives and Kinkead Avenue.

“Nature preserves attract visitors who spend money at local businesses. The value of properties adjacent to protected open spaces often increases, which is good for those property owners and for tax revenues,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Land Conservancy. The Klydel Wetlands also provide flood controls for the nearby neighborhoods.

“Ecosystem services, provided for free by nature, save taxpayers money that would otherwise have to be spent on costly infrastructure. In short, protecting places like the Klydel Wetlands is an investment in the future of our region,” Smith said.

Another type of investment came in the form of grants to the conservancy this week by two local foundations, contributing to its $3.2 million plan to purchase land along the Niagara River in Lewiston from the Sisters of St. Francis at Stella Niagara for creation of a nature preserve there.

The 29-acre site is the largest privately owned piece of undeveloped land anywhere along the river.

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo gave $25,000 and the M&T Charitable Foundation kicked in $10,000. The Land Conservancy has now received more than $2.9 million of the more than $3.2 million needed to create the Stella Niagara Preserve.

In February, the conservancy received a $200,000 challenge gift from Pamela and Joe Priest of Lewiston, and when it is matched, the project’s fundraising goal will have been met, but the deadline is June 1, and more donations are being sought.