For Immediate Release: March 9, 2017
Bolton Landing, NY – The Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) has a new tool to measure the positive, lasting impact of how it protects the land that protects the lake. In the LGLC’s just released FY16 Annual Report, the LGLC presents the concept of “eco-services” as a quantifiable benefit of protected lands.
“As a land trust, we have a unique place among the landscape of the many organizations working to protect Lake George,” explains LGLC’s Executive Director Jamie Brown. “We work with willing landowners to create lasting solutions. When we buy a piece of land or hold a conservation easement on property, the land is protected forever. That wetlands and forest will always be able to filter stormwater, provide habitat, be a part of the scenic view, and keep the lake’s water clean and pure. When we carefully create low-impact trails, they allow users to see how the land and the lake interact, the birds and wildlife that thrive here, and even where people from our past once walked. But most importantly when we protect land within the Lake George watershed, we make a lasting, important, and substantial impact on the water quality of the lake.”
Ecosystem services (eco-services) allow the LGLC to show in terms of dollars just how significant that impact is.
For example, according to a number of studies, one acre of wetland provides the equivalent of $1,450 in services that protect the local environment each year. The land performs its natural functions and reduces the annual financial burden on governments and non-profit organizations to take measures to protect the water quality of the lake. The up-front costs of acquiring these lands becomes minimal when compared with the perpetual contribution that these acres provide in terms of services to protect the local environment each year.
The LGLC recently purchased a 65-acre wetland property in Putnam for $30,000 ($462/acre). These wetlands will provide $94,250 in eco-services that will contribute to the protecting and enhancing the local environment each year, forever. These services include reduced air pollution, stormwater control/water quality and quantity protection, habitat and food supply for various wildlife and birds, and contributions to the overall aesthetic quality of the lake. Put another way, this means fewer stormwater basins or rain gardens that will need to be constructed and maintained, fewer septic systems that will need to be permitted and eventually rebuilt, fewer acres of impervious surface that will adversely affect the water quality of the lake (and require some form of mitigation), and so on. This is not to suggest that man-made solutions are not effective; rather, the protection offers a natural, lasting and cost-effective solution that can complement the other practices being used throughout the Lake George watershed. In the case of this wetland property, the LGLC made a very wise investment.
Forests and other protected lands similarly contribute services that make a financial impact on the local environment each year. One acre of mixed woods forest land provides $210 in services to protect the environment each year. Additionally, the forests that buffer streams, known as riparian forests, trap and retain up to 80% of the sediment that otherwise would run into the stream and travel on into the lake. Sediment-related discharge contributes the majority of harmful substances to the nation’s waterways including nitrogen and phosphorus.
In 2005, the LGLC purchased the 1,307-acre Pole Hill Pond Preserve for $773,000 ($591/acre). The land was subsequently transferred to the State of New York. The property is wooded with steep slopes draining down into the lake. Though the property was heavily cut at the time it was purchased, the trees have been regenerating. Regardless of the age of the trees, each acre provides $210 in eco-services to the area for an annual total value of $274,470. In less than three years, the property more than paid for itself in providing clean air, habitat, recreational opportunities, and most importantly, the perpetual creation of a natural filter to keep sediment and pollutants out of the lake.
“People know what it means to see a beautiful view from one of our preserves or to swim in the clean, beautiful water of the lake,” Brown said. “There was always a warm feeling associated with protecting land. We always knew that it was good for the lake and for the wildlife, and that there were many good reasons to protect the land, but we couldn’t really quantify these positives. Now, we can show in very concrete terms, the financial benefits to the environment of protecting the land that protects the lake.”
For more information about eco-services research and its methodology, or about the LGLC’s land protection program, visit lglc.org or call 518-644-9673.