What the Land Trust Does
What does TILT do?
The Thousand Islands Land Trust’s mission is working to conserve the natural beauty, diverse wildlife habitats, water quality, and outdoor recreation opportunities of the Thousand Islands region. Since 1985, TILT has helped to safeguard the landscape qualities of the Thousand Islands, which contribute so greatly to the character of this place we love, through conservation easements, land acquisition, and by establishing accessible areas available for public enjoyment (including open spaces for hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, birding, and kayaking). While safeguarding some of our region’s most important natural resources, TILT also supports making informed land use decisions, which provide long-term benefits to local taxpayers and municipalities.
Why is Conservation important in the 1000 Islands? Why do we need TILT?
Land supports life, surrounding water, and wildlife, as well as livelihoods and recreation opportunities. TILT’s conservation efforts directly support habitats for threatened and endangered species and filters for clean water in one of the most critical watersheds on earth. Draining the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River supports the single largest supply of surface fresh water on the planet. TILT’s service area is part of the Frontenac Arch, an extraordinary region for wildlife, including diverse, breeding bird populations in nationally significant numbers. TILT’s efforts also safeguard the scenic areas of our region and recreation opportunities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and cross-country skiing, which encourage the tourism that supports the vitality of our local economy.
Does TILT have a strategic vision?
Yes. Our communities’ vision for the future focuses on sustaining resilient ecosystems that promote healthy people and a vibrant economy. Learn more about TILT’s strategic vision.
Can I Go On a Preserve?
Yes. TILT's Signature Preserves are open to the public, and in some cases feature trails for hiking and skiing. The Signature Preserves are: Zenda Farms Preserve, S. Gerald Ingerson Preserve, Potters Beach & Grindstone Island Preserves, Sissy Danforth Rivergate Trail, Otter Creek Preserve, Crooked Creek Preserve, and Chippewa Bay Preserve.
Land that has a conservation easement on it is not necessarily open to the public. In most cases, this land is private property, owned by someone other than the land trust. The public may not trespass on these properties.
What is "diverse wildlife"?
Many of TILT’s preserves include a mix of wetlands, woodlands, shrub lands, and grasslands, all of which are necessary for wildlife to thrive. Birds like the Eastern Meadowlark, the Savannah Sparrow, and Bobolink rely on open grasslands for nesting and foraging. Today, TILT owns and manages over 1,500 acres of grasslands for threatened and endangered bird species. TILT also protects various creeks, tributaries, and Class I wetlands that act as nurseries for a variety of regional fish species, such as bass, northern pike, and muskellunge.
What are the recreation opportunities TILT supports?
TILT maintains and operates over 38 miles of trails open to the public that may be used for walking, hiking, biking, birding, and cross-country skiing. TILT preserves, such as the Crooked Creek and Otter Creek preserves, also provide opportunities for kayaking and fishing. Hunting and trapping opportunities are offered through TILT’s permit system. TILTreks & Talks, TeenTreks, KidsTreks, and TILTKids Camp are an annual series of education programs that give individuals and families the opportunity to "Get Out on the Land". TILT’s Community Garden at the Zenda Farms Preserve offers over 8,000 square feet of planting space, access to experts, the support of fellow gardeners, and a bounty of locally grown, fresh produce!
Why is scenic quality important in the 1000 Islands?
Tourism is a billion dollar industry in the Thousand Islands region and is integral to our local economy, creating jobs and generating new business opportunities. People visit our region, year after year, because of our scenery and environmental quality, which include pristine rivers and lakes, bountiful fish and wildlife, historic architecture, and an abundance of available outdoor recreational activities. These are the very attributes of our River community that the TILT serves to protect.
Does TILT participate in habitat restoration?
Partnering with other agencies and organizations, TILT has helped to restore a variety of important habitats in the region. Stewardship is the most important part of our work, and includes restoration of nesting habitat for Common Terns, reclaiming grasslands for songbirds, and protecting wetlands and other nursery areas for aquatic species.
How does TILT operate?
TILT has 5 full time employees, 3 part time employees, 2-3 summer interns, over 125 active volunteers, and 17 trustees. Meet TILT’s staff.
Who are TILT's board members?
TILT Board of Trustees care deeply about clean air, water quality, natural beauty, habitat and wildlife. There are currently 17 board members (TILT’s by-laws allow for up to 18). Meet TILT’s board members.
How do I get involved?
TILT’s conservation work is only possible through the support of its donors, volunteers, staff, and community. There are many ways to get involved, including becoming a TILT member, making a donation of land or conservation easement, including TILT in your year-end giving, including TILT in your estate planning, becoming a business underwriter, participating on a TILTrek, attending a TILT event, and becoming a stewardship volunteer. TILT stewardship volunteers work with TILT stewardship staff to monitor, manage, and maintain various preserves and easements.
Is TILT an accredited land trust?
Yes. TILT is a member of the Land Trust Alliance, which represents 1,700 conservation groups across America, establishes best professional practices, and provides training to help land trusts meet the highest legal and ethical standards in their work. In 2009, TILT became 1 of 11 New York State land trusts to be accredited. Land trusts must apply for reaccreditation every 5 years. TILT was successfully reaccredited in 2014.
Tell me about TILT's conserved fee-owned land.
TILT also owns in fee 4,200 acres of land, which are conserved as forever wild. These properties are maintained by TILT, providing an economic relief for local towns and villages. Examples of these properties include Potters Beach on Grindstone Island, the Macsherry Trail in Hammond, Otter Creek Nature Trail in Alexandria Bay, and Zenda Farms Preserve in Clayton, all of which are visited by tens of thousands of people each year. Learn more about TILT’s preserves.
How does TILT raise money to purchase fee-owned land?
TILT raises funds for land conservation and environmental education in the form of private donations, private foundation grants, and state and federal grants. In many cases, TILT is able to take every $1 of private funding and leverage $2 of state and federal grants.
Does TILT take land off the tax rolls?
When land is acquired by TILT it may be removed from the tax rolls because it provides public and economic benefits for our region. The majority of TILT’s owned lands offer exceptional hiking, biking and cross country-skiing opportunities that are open to the public free of charge. Hunting and trapping opportunities are offered through TILT’s permit system. Examples of properties owned by TILT that are open to the public include Zenda Farms Preserve, Potters Beach Preserve, the Grindstone Island Nature Trail, Crooked Creek Preserve, and Otter Creek Preserve! Learn more about TILT’s preserves.
Does having open space increase the viability of my community?
Absolutely. A common misperception is that tax-exempt properties owned by TILT translate into a loss of revenue for municipalities. Many studies have shown that open space demands fewer municipal services than lands in other use. Open space also tends to generate greater municipal tax revenue than the value of services required by these lands. For example, open space and outdoor recreation areas support our local economy and overall quality of life.
How do TILT's owned properties affect my community's taxes?
TILT supports making informed development decisions, knowing it is imperative that development is balanced with open space conservation. Over time, the cost of public services required by developed lands is greater than the taxes generated through development. To put this another way, when land is developed for new homes and businesses, there is generally an initial boost in tax revenue, but in most cases there is a pivot point when fire, police, and ambulance services, water lines, sanitary facilities, road improvements, traffic lights, school expansions, and other facilities are needed. The initial increased tax revenues from development do not offset the costs of these services in the long run. So, by establishing a balance between conserved properties and development, taxes are stabilized.
What is the scope of TILT's service area and conservation lands?
TILT’s focus area extends from Cape Vincent to the northeastern extent of Morristown, totaling 374,269 acres. 1.1% of this acreage is TILT fee-owned lands and 1.0% is TILT conservation easements. TILT represents 1.7% (or $7.8 million) of the combined $453 million value of tax-exempt land within the six townships from Cape Vincent to Morristown.
TILT represents 0.27% of the $2,884,517,760 of the total land value from Cape Vincent to Morristown.
Of the 228,346 acres of land in our River communities, TILT conserves 8,303 acres or 3.6% (1.7% through conservation easements, which remain on the tax rolls, and 1.9% fee-owned land).
Are my donations to TILT tax deductible?
Yes. TILT is a community based not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization under provisions of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Donations of land, conservation easements, and financial resources to TILT are tax deductible under provisions of the Internal Revenue code. Please check with your financial advisor for advice regarding tax deductions.
What does the future hold for TILT?
TILT’s preserves and easements will be conserved and monitored in perpetuity (meaning forever), thus, TILT will continue to focus on stewarding these properties that help to maintain the integrity and character of our beloved region. TILT will also continue its efforts to support making informed land use decisions, encouraging a balance of conservation with needs for development. Conserving our land in the future will also provide healthy habitats, on land and in water, for our area’s bountiful wildlife. Lastly, TILT will continue its ongoing education efforts for youth and adults, encouraging a celebration of nature and getting more and more people out on the land and water. Your support is now more important than ever. Our staff and board would like to convey the sincerest appreciation for your interest and support in conserving the place we love.
What is a Conservation Easement?
Landowners can conserve their land while maintaining ownership of the land through a Conservation Easement. A Conservation Easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, such as a land trust, that restricts specific activities on the land to protect its conservation values.
Conservation Easements allow the landowner to maintain ownership of the land while limiting future development. The property can also be sold or passed onto heirs, with the Conservation Easement forever restricting the land as the original landowner planned, ensuring their wishes for conservation in perpetuity.
Landowners can choose to restrict areas of their land from development, while also setting aside development zones for the future, ensuring a balance between the built environment and the protection of natural resources on the property. Conservation Easements can also ensure future uses on the land as long as they are in agreement with the goals of the Conservation Easement. For example, the cutting of a limited percentage of trees for firewood , as long as it is within the standards for ensuring a healthy forest, can be specified; hunting on the property to continue to manage healthy wildlife populations can also be permitted.
Each easement is unique to the land it governs. The land trust works with the landowner to develop the easement so that the it conforms to the wishes of the donor and protects the conservation values of the land. Contact the office for more information.
Can I Donate my Land to TILT?
Landowners can also donate lands with conservation value to the land trust. This means they are transferring the whole, unconditional ownership of the land over to a land trust, which will then hold the ownership and care of that land in perpetuity.
Donations of conservation land have many benefits to the landowner such as beginning a legacy of conservation in the region as well as potential charitable tax implications for such a donation.
Land trusts will hold this land "in-fee if that is the wish of the donor. The land trust can also resell the property with a Conservation Easement on it to ensure its future protection. Again, this option depends on the donor’s intent for the donation of the property and would be outlined at the time of the donation.
Can I conserve my land and still sell it?
Landowners who want to sell their property and don’t want to see it over-developed can work with TILT staff to also place a Conservation Easement on their land prior to its sale. By placing a Conservation Easement on the property, the landowner is ensuring protection in perpetuity, no matter who owns the land.
What are examples of TILT successes?
TILT’s Signature Preserves are among its most cherished successes. Signature Preserves include the Grindstone Island Preserves & Nature Trail, Crooked Creek Preserve & Macsherry Trail, Zenda Farms Preserve & MacFarlane Trail, Sissy Danforth Rivergate Trail and Otter Creek Preserve & Nature Trail. Signature Preserves are open to the public and offer exceptional hiking, biking and cross country-skiing opportunities that are free of charge. Hunting and trapping are offered through a permit system.
Does TILT sell land donated to the organization?
When a landowner donates land to TILT, the landowner may choose to discuss the possibility of TILT selling the property in the future to raise funds for stewardship, outreach, educational, or other conservation projects. This would be conducted in full accordance with landowner intent and the provisions for the land created by the landowner. All conservation properties sold are protected with a permanent conservation easement.
Tell me about TILT's conservation easements.
Under conservation easements, ownership of the property remains with the landowner, but activities such as development, commercial timber harvesting, and mining can be limited—by the landowner’s voluntary choice—in an effort to protect the character of the landscape. Lands protected by conservation easement remain on the tax rolls. TILT holds 4,000 acres of land in conservation easements.