DEC and Thousand Islands Land Trust announce protection of five parcels in Jefferson County

Preservation of 182 Acres Will Help Protect Drinking Water Quality in St. Lawrence River Region

ALBANY, NY —  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and The Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) today announced the protection of more than 182 acres of significant watershed lands in the Town of Clayton, Jefferson County, as part of the state’s Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) Program. This partnership will help protect the surface water quality of the St. Lawrence River, a source of public drinking water for thousands of people in the region.

“Successful programs like WQIP and continued funding for clean water infrastructure, including an additional $500,000 in Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2021-22 Executive Budget, are helping to transform state investments into long-term protections for drinking water sources in Jefferson County and other communities across the state,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said.  “These latest easements and acquisitions in partnership with the Thousand Islands Land Trust will continue to help ensure clean water for communities and preserve the water quality in the St. Lawrence River watershed.”

“We’re grateful that the Environmental Protection Fund and the Water Quality Improvement Program are available to help protect the clean water and open space that we all enjoy,” said Greg McLean, TILT’s President. “By conserving these properties, TILT ensures that they remain in their natural state in perpetuity.”

The St. Lawrence River is a drinking water supply for a number of communities in the region, and as shoreline development and agricultural expansion continue, the susceptibility for water contamination of this widely-used source water grows. TILT is focusing its conservation efforts under this state WQIP project to help preserve the River’s Grindstone and Picton islands. TILT has acquired easements and acreage totaling approximately 182acres across five parcels that contain natural vegetated shoreline buffers and coastal marsh habitats that will be conserved in perpetuity to ensure the protection of valuable drinking water supply:

  • Deedy: This 2018 conservation easement in the Town of Clayton was a full donation to TILTfor source water protection in perpetuity. Ken Deedy, one of TILT’s founders, along with his nephew, Matthew M. Deedy, donated an easement on nearly 26 acres of their 31-acre property on Grindstone Island. The easement was implemented to limit subdivision, development, mining, and other major disturbances to the land’s source water value and sensitive ecological and aesthetic qualities. The easement-protected forests, granite outcrops, and undeveloped shorelines provide habitat for countless species of native flora and fauna, and contribute to the region’s unparalleled scenic beauty. Even after Ken’s passing, his legacy lives on with the land and his family, with impacts continuing to be felt as other nearby landowners consider easement projects that are helping to build upon TILT’s landscape-scale conservation corridor and strengthen the overall resiliency of the Thousand Islands region;

  • Ramseier: This conservation easement on approximately nine (9) acres in the Town of Clayton was acquired for $41,500. It abuts TILT’s Heineman Songbird Forest at the foot of Grindstone island. The easement maintains the natural beauty of the undeveloped shoreline near the Picton Channel, as well as a coastal marsh and its upland buffer which are both critical to protecting the drinking water source;

  • Rusho: This 67-acre parcel was acquired for $115,000. Situated between Delaney Bay and TILT’s Rusho Farm Preserve on Grindstone Island, the Rusho property’s forested riparian habitat and marsh fringes provide unparalleled source water protection value; and

  • Picton III and IV: Picton III is a conservation easement on approximately 32 acres that was also a full donation to TILT. Picton IV is a 49-acre conservation easement partially donated to TILT. Picton island’s array of mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, coastal wetlands, and granite rock outcroppings comprise a vast diversity of habitat types and terrain variations that protect the water quality of the St. Lawrence. The unfragmented forest acts as a habitat corridor, providing connectivity across the Frontenac Arch.

DEC awarded TILT a $555,571 WQIP grant to use toward the protection of these parcels and two other easements in progress in the Thousand Islands region, further protecting the water quality of the St. Lawrence River.

Governor Cuomo continues to increase investments for clean water infrastructure projects, including the State’s unprecedented $3.5 billion commitment – recently bolstered by an additional $500,000 proposed in the 2021-22 Executive Budget – to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean water. As part of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which the Governor’s Executive Budget renews at a record $300 million, WQIP supports projects to improve water quality, reduce the potential for harmful algal blooms (HABs), and protect drinking water across the state. DEC has announced more than $37 million in grants, which are helping partners support 37 WQIP land acquisition projects to date. In addition to land acquisition projects for source water protection, WQIP grants are awarded for municipal wastewater treatment, nonagricultural nonpoint source abatement and control, salt storage, and aquatic habitat restoration.