A 222-acre forest with old-growth trees in Wales has been saved from potential logging and subdivisions.
Mossy Point will become a nature preserve.
The Western New York Land Conservancy, working with Friends of Mossy Point, announced Thursday that it had raised the $1.6 million it needed to buy the land before a Dec. 31 deadline.
“This campaign was a tremendous effort by everyone involved,” said Nancy Smith, the conservancy's executive director. “[We] came together to make this dream a reality. Since the Great Lakes contain almost a quarter of the world’s surface fresh water, it is so inspiring to protect a forest that enhances the quality of the fresh water we all rely on.”
As a headwater forest, the land naturally filters water from the Niagara River and helps prevent flooding in communities downstream.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation played a significant role in the early stages of the campaign by providing a $655,000 water quality improvement grant. Three donations totaling $250,000 from private individuals, plus a $100,000 donation from the Gallogly Family Foundation, were other key contributions that helped secure the forest as the deadline drew near.
“Protecting a large, contiguous tract of unspoiled forest like Mossy Point is critical to preserving water quality, including here at the headwaters of the Niagara River," said Basil Seggos, the DEC's commissioner. "This land is home to vital wildlife habitat, including ancient and rare fern species, and a stopping place for migratory songbirds."
Last summer the DEC said the loss of natural landscapes like Mossy Point can lead to polluted runoff, sedimentation, higher stormwater surges and reduced stream baseflow and aquifer recharge.
Old-growth patches include stands of hemlocks, white pine and hickory trees. Ferns, milkweed, red oaks, sugar maples, birch trees and cucumber magnolia trees also grow on the property.
Migratory birds use the deep woods to nest, including the Venezuelan water thrush, great crested flycatcher and the blackburnian warbler. Six of Western New York's seven woodpecker species can be found in Mossy Point, along with foxes and black bears.
The forest includes shale-bedded Hunters Creek, rich with crayfish and ecologically diverse upland woodland areas.
The property's acquisition is expected to be completed in the spring.
The newly protected land and the adjacent 131-acre Kenneglenn Nature Preserve and 760-acre Hunters Creek County Park form a 1,113-acre protected area, one of the largest patches of protected forests in the Niagara River watershed.
The conservancy plans to build a trail for walking, cross-country and snowshoe hikes at Mossy Point. It is also considering a year-round trail system connecting the areas.
Last summer, the conservancy made a public appeal for financial help, calling the forest "awesome" but also "threatened" if the fundraising effort did not succeed.
“Subdivisions, logged, lost. You’ll never be able to come here," Jajean Rose-Burney, the land conservancy’s deputy executive director, told The Buffalo News last June. "The forest will disappear.
"It will be logged. It will be developed. That’s just the future of places like this if it’s not protected."
With Mossy Point, the conservancy has protected more than 6,700 acres in Western New York.