Growing the Crooked Creek Preserve...
TILT Founder Ken Deedy once said that “when it comes to preserving habitat, the rule of thumb is ‘bigger is better’.” Ken knew that large nature preserves and other protected open spaces serve as sanctuaries of biodiversity. He skillfully put this logic to work and facilitated conservation projects on thousands of acres along the upper St. Lawrence River, laying the foundation for many of TILT’s greatest preservation initiatives.
Building upon this concept are the linchpins of conservation known as “connectivity”, and its antithesis, “fragmentation”. Landscapes with a high degree of interconnected habitat networks, pathways and corridors bolster long-term ecological integrity. That is, ‘bigger, and more connected, is better’. It is TILT’s strategic conservation mission to conserve large swaths of connected habitat to promote biodiversity and prevent habitat fragmentation.
This summer, TILT was able to check both of these boxes by acquiring two parcels that contain 207-acres of pristine forest, wetland, grassland and open-water habitats that link the Crooked Creek Preserve to its Butterfield Marsh property in the Town of Alexandria. TILT purchased the two parcels with private contributions as well as federal and state grant funding. Known as the Wilton and Runkles acquisitions, TILT’s new land protection projects bring the Crooked Creek Preserve to 2,200 acres of contiguous lands and waters, a feat that Ken most certainly would have relished.
The new properties, which are identified as being climate change resilient, were listed for sale on the open market. With a mile of creek frontage and a mile of road frontage along Routes 1 and 111, TILT acted quickly to prevent the imminent risk of habitat fragmentation that would result from these parcels being developed. “We were able to be nimble and embrace this once-in-a-lifetime land protection opportunity in the heart of the Algonquin to Adirondack (A2A) wildlife corridor,” said Spencer Busler, TILT’s Assistant Director. “If you’re a wildlife connoisseur, the Wilton and Runkles properties will not disappoint, from harriers and herons to turkeys and turtles.”
...And New Protection on Grindstone
Ken’s conservation legacy was carried on once again this summer on Grindstone Island with the closing of the Ramseier conservation easement. The 9- acre conservation easement, which abuts TILT’s Heineman Songbird Forest at the foot of Grindstone, was acquired via bargain-sale from William Ramseier. The easement protects a critical coastal marsh and its upland buffers, and maintains the natural beauty of the undeveloped shoreline near the Picton channel. Aside from being a muskellunge nursery site, the marsh has been known to host the New York State threatened Blanding’s turtle as well as the state endangered fish, the pugnose shiner.
“Protecting the marsh with a conservation easement was the most impactful way of honoring the legacy of my dear friend and neighbor Ken Deedy,” said William Ramseier, easement grantor. “Ken’s vision and passion for the Thousand Islands were sincerely inspiring. I’m grateful to be able to contribute to that tradition.” By conserving this parcel, TILT is also protecting the natural resources that fuel the region’s tourism-based economy.
Sure, large isolated preserves are immensely important, as are protected wildlife corridors and critical linkages. But they become far more meaningful when implemented together. After all, what good is a bridge leading to nowhere?