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The LGLC: Watershed-Wide Land Protection

The LGLC: Watershed-Wide Land Protection October 10, 2023
Aerial view of the Sucker Brook Preserve, courtesy of Adirondack Council. Photo by Carl Heilman II.
Aerial view of the Sucker Brook Preserve, courtesy of Adirondack Council. Photo by Carl Heilman II.

To protect a stream, the entire stream corridor, perhaps the entire watershed, should be protected, says Paul Bell, the new president of the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Board of Directors.

“The water quality in a part of a stream that runs through multiple parcels will only be as good as the entire stream, and that requires a protected corridor,” said Bell. “A wild stream interrupted by a five-acre house lot with a failing septic field would endanger the entire stream.”

Call that a conservationist’s rule of thumb. And a good example of that, says LGLC executive director Mike Horn, is the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Indian Brook/Northwest Bay Conservation Initiative.

Less than 10% of the 7,500-acre watershed drained by Indian Brook, one of the lake’s two largest tributaries, has been disturbed, surfaced or built upon.

(By the time impervious surfaces have absorbed 20 percent of a watershed, a stream’s aquatic invertebrate communities will have shrunk by roughly 25 percent, according to the USGS.)

Nevertheless, much of the Indian Brook’s banks and surrounding watershed remain unprotected and are currently available for – and vulnerable to – development.

In response, the Lake George Land Conservancy has pursued an initiative to purchase property or acquire conservation easements across sensitive lands up and down the Indian Brook corridor.

The latest addition to the watershed’s protected zone is a ten-acre parcel that drains into Saddle Brook, which flows into Indian Brook.

That transaction was completed on September 15, according to the LGLC.

Above and beyond the 700-foot stretch of Saddle Brook, the parcel holds a 3-acre wetland that “absorbs the brook before it flows downstream into a 147-acre parcel where we already hold a conservation easement and from there, eventually, into Indian Brook,” said Mike Horn.

Bolton’s current zoning regulations would have permitted the construction of three houses and three septic fields on the ten-acre lot, said Horn.

“But with the assistance of willing sellers, the land is in its open, natural state. And we’re keeping it that way,” said Horn.

According to the LGLC, “land connectivity” is critical not only for stream protection but for wildlife.

An example of a Lake George Land Conservancy- protected landscape that promotes wildlife connectivity is the Sucker Brook watershed, said Paul Bell.

That preserve comprises 4,600 acres of interlocking wetlands, woods and mountains on Lake George’s northeast shore, whose scale ensures the uninterrupted flow of wildlife across state and municipal boundaries, and from one protected habitat to another.

The preserve was created through the protection “of numerous individual parcels that were later connected through other purchases or conservation easements,” said Bell.

(Another four acres of wetland and stream corridor in the Sucker Brook Preserve is under contract, the LGLC announced earlier this summer.)

Bell said he expected the Lake George Land Conservancy to continue to protect watersheds and landscapes “one parcel at a time.”

“I don’t see us veering dramatically away from the model of land conservation that we’ve used in the Indian Brook/Northwest Bay Initiative and at the Sucker Brook Preserve: adding and connecting properties through outright acquisition or through the purchase of conservation easements,” said Bell, who has been a member of the Conservancy’s board since 2020 and who was its vice-president for conservation before being elected president in September, 2023.

“Our mission is unchanged: to protect the land that protects the water,” said Bell.

Before retiring, Bell was the general manager of a broadcasting network and prior to that, a vice-president at Dow Jones. A resident of Sabbath Day Point, Bell has also served on the Boards of Silver Bay YMCA and Grace Memorial Chapel.

According to Mike Horn, the Lake George Land Conservancy has eleven projects in various stages of completion underway that will place an additional 2,500 feet of shoreline, 2.3 miles of stream corridor and 70 acres of wetland under its protective umbrella.

“Some projects take a while to complete, and some never come to fruition But we are always available to talk to willing sellers,” said Bell.

“We want landowners to be aware that the Lake George Land Conservancy is an option,” said Mike Horn.

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