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Editorial: Preserving Mossy Point

Think of Mossy Point as an ecological secret, hiding in plain sight. The 222-acre forest borders Hunters Creek in Wales. More than 20 miles before its waters reach the Niagara, it is nonetheless key to the great river’s health.

That’s why the Western New York Land Conservancy has embarked upon a project to buy that critical land, which adjoins the conservancy’s 131-acre Kenneglenn property, also along Hunters Creek. It’s another important project by the conservancy, whose influence is being felt around Western New York.

The organization is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to buy the land from its private owner, preserving it from a fate that could include logging and development, both of which could harm the health of the creek and the downstream waterways it feeds. The cost of the purchase is $1.6 million and, with a $650,000 grant from the Department of Environmental Conservation and private donations, it has raised a little more than half the total. But a clock is ticking: To preserve the purchase, the rest of the money needs to be raised by year’s end.

That fund-raising is underway. The Gallogly Family Foundation has put up a $100,000 challenge gift. If it is met, the Conservancy will be within about $500,000 of the goal. Donations are being accepted through the Conservancy’s website.

The property is home to a patch of old-growth forest, six of Western New York’s seven woodpecker species, South American migratory songbirds and nearly a dozen species of fern, some of which – like the Christmas fern – are uncommon. If the project is successful, the purchase will count as one of the largest blocks of headwater forests ever protected in Erie County, according to Nancy Smith, the land conservancy’s executive director.

But most important is that as a headwater forest, this ecologically complex acreage holds and naturally filters water, ensuring that it sends clean water downstream into Buffalo Creek, the Buffalo River, the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.

“The loss of natural landscapes like this one can lead to polluted runoff, sedimentation, higher stormwater surges and reduced stream baseflow and aquifer recharge,” the DEC said in a statement. “This natural forest buffer helps to protect Hunters Creek, and the tributary to Buffalo Creek and then the Buffalo River (and ultimately the Great Lakes and Niagara River).”

This project represents another needed effort in the work of cleaning and maintaining once-polluted waterways in Western New York. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year completed a $75 million dredging project to remove contaminants from the Buffalo River. In a matter of a few years, it is expected to be safe enough for swimming and fishing.

The Western New York Land Conservancy has been busy, as well. In Niagara County, it is removing invasive species from the Niagara River gorge and replacing them with native plants. It is also the lead agency in planning for what looks to be an spectacular high-line park along the old DL&W railroad bed in Buffalo.

Purchase of the Mossy Point land is expected to lead to public access, with eventual development of nature trails, possibly linking Mossy Point to Kenneglenn and maybe Hunters Creek County Park. By guarding this important land, residents will not only protect their water source, but create new opportunities for appreciating nature.

The Western New York Land Conservancy’s website is wnylc.org. It provides more information on the Mossy Point project and a link to a page where those interested can donate.

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