WNY Land Conservancy sets virtual event to 'Save Allegany Wildlands'

This is part of the 200-acre site overlooking the Allegheny Reservoir in the town of South Valley the Western New York Land Conservancy hopes to buy as part of the Allegany Wildlands.

The Western New York Land Conservancy will host Ed Marx of the Wildlands Network for an Oct. 27 virtual event to “Save the Allegany Wildlands.”

The conservancy and the Friends of the Allegany Wildlands are working to buy a 200-acre parcel it calls the Allegany Wildlands overlooking the Allegheny Reservoir in the town of South Valley.

It is an unglaciated area that has similarities to parts of nearby Allegany State Park and is home to a spectacular diversity of plants and animals, WNY Land Conservancy spokesman Kyle Semmel said.

The conservancy has until the end of the year to reach its fundraising goal of $879,000 to buy the property and have funds for maintenance into the future.

“Thankfully, it is more than halfway there,” Semmel said. “The community still needs to raise $330,000 to meet its fundraising goal. Thanks to three generous challenge gifts, the next $120,000 in donations will be matched one to one.”

Once the goal is met, the conservancy will purchase the land and keep it open as a publicly accessible nature preserve forever.

To kick off the final fundraising push of the campaign, the conservancy will host a free virtual event on Oct. 27, featuring Marx, from 7 to 8 p.m. Attendees will also hear from Jajean Rose-Burney, deputy executive director of the WNY Land Conservancy, about how they can save the Allegany Wildlands.

Register online at wnylc.org/events. The public is encouraged to attend the free event, but anyone who wishes to watch must register. Prior to the event, all registrants will receive a link to watch it on YouTube.

“Although the event is free, we encourage all registrants to donate to save the Allegany Wildlands,” Semmel said.

Six critically endangered American chestnut trees more than 40 feet tall still survive at the Allegany Wildlands, some of which are producing seeds, Semmel said. Large oaks, a threatened lily called a white clintonia, and rare orchids also grow there. Underneath the forest canopy, black bears and bobcats roam the ridges and ravines.

The property was purchased by the Sluga family in the early 1800s. Though the Sluga family has decided to sell the land, for the next chapter of this forest’s story, they want it protected, Semmel said.

Protecting the Allegany Wildlands represents the first act of the Land Conservancy’s ambitious, decades-long project it’s calling the Western New York Wildway. The Wildway will be a connected corridor of protected lands that stretches from the vast forests of northern Pennsylvania to the Great Lakes, through to the Finger Lakes, the Adirondacks, and beyond. It will form part of the Eastern Wildway which runs all the way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Semmel said, “The Wildway will allow plants and animals to migrate across the land as they once did, it will allow those that have disappeared from our region to return home, and it will allow those in need to move around to new homes as climate changes.”

The Allegany Wildlands is already connected to 7,000 acres of protected state land, nestled between Allegany State Park and South Valley State Forest, and it is a significant link in this future Western New York Wildway, he said.

If the Land Conservancy community cannot meet its fundraising goal by Dec. 31, it could be logged and developed, Semmel said.

Marx will explain to participants in the free Allegany Wildlands virtual event the impact of saving forests like the Allegany Wildlands has on the larger Eastern Wildway.

“The Eastern Wildway seeks to address this challenge head on, and we’re thrilled that the Land Conservancy is joining us in our effort to create a large-scale habitat corridor running up and down the east coast,” he said. “The Allegany Wildlands is an important piece of that effort.”

The Land Conservancy is looking for donations of all sizes in order to save the Allegany Wildlands. A $200,000 donation will enable the donor to name the area being preserved.

Donors can donate online at wnylc.org or send a check made payable to Western New York Land Conservancy to P.O. Box 471, East Aurora, N.Y., 14052.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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