A sign that says "The Nature Conservancy Owasco Water Source Protection Program."
Owasco Lake Source Water Acquisition protects water quality of Owasco Lake Watershed © Olivia Green/TNC

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Governor Hochul Announces Protection Of 275 Acres Of Open Space In Cayuga County

Acquisition Protects Water Quality of Owasco Lake Watershed

Lands Offer New Space for Passive Outdoor Recreation in Fillmore Glen State Park

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that New York State, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, permanently protected two environmentally sensitive parcels of open space in Cayuga County: a 203-acre addition to Fillmore Glen State Park in Moravia and 72 acres of forested wetlands in Venice. Both projects were funded through the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Water Quality Improvement Project program, which supports projects that directly improve water quality or aquatic habitat, promote flood risk reduction, restoration, and enhanced flood and climate resiliency, or protect a drinking water source. 

“The Finger Lakes region is home to some of New York's most extraordinary wonders, and expanding the footprint of the protected wetlands is a promise we make to their long-term wellbeing,” Governor Hochul said. “We are preserving our natural environment and ensuring New York continues to be a recreational and economic asset for future generations.” 

Since 2018, The Nature Conservancy has used funding from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Water Quality Improvement Project program (WQIP) to identify, protect, and restore lands in the Owasco Lake watershed that have the most impact on the lake's water quality. The newly acquired wetlands in Venice, utilizing a portion of a $1.1 million WQIP grant, brings the total amount of watershed area protected by The Nature Conservancy to 624 acres. Protected areas are not developed. Instead, the natural features of these lands are preserved to safeguard the water quality of nearby Owasco Lake, which serves as the drinking water source for more than 40,000 individuals. 

Fillmore Glen State Park, now 1,144 acres, is an oasis of cool, dense woods crowding into a long, narrow gorge. Its hiking trails offer spectacular views, unique geological formations, including five waterfalls and a botanically rich glen. The park has 60 campsites, a stream-fed swimming pool, and fishing opportunities in the Owasco Lake inlet. In the winter, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are available. 

The Nature Conservancy acquired the 203-acre property in 2020 and recently completed a donation of the property to Fillmore Glen State Park. The property consists of vacant woodland and approximately 50 acres of freshwater forested/shrub wetlands with two seasonal streams. Both streams flow north into Dry Creek within Fillmore Glen State Park, where they feed the park's natural swimming pool, then flow into the OwascoInlet – the primary tributary to Owasco Lake. New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation intends to allow passive recreational activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, bird watching and hunting on the property. 

In Venice, the newly protected land is home to a diverse forest of hemlocks, white pines, birch, and beech. It includes several streams and provides habitat for many species including grouse, coyote, and deer. The extensive wetlands on the property also function as a natural filter, cleaning the runoff from neighboring properties before the water ultimately reaches Owasco Lake. 

DEC Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar said, “Protecting open space is essential to safeguarding water quality and the lands protected today demonstrate the power of Governor Hochul’s investments in the Clean Water Infrastructure Act and DEC’s Water Quality Improvement Program which facilitate important partnerships to advance conservation actions. Watershed protection projects like this are a win-win for local communities, wildlife, and the many visitors who enjoy the Finger Lakes every year by creating new recreational offerings, providing clean drinking water, and supporting tourism in the region.” 

Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Pro Tempore Randy Simons said, “The expansion of Fillmore Glen is another example of how Governor Hochul is expanding outdoor recreational opportunities for New York residents and visitors. I’m grateful to the Department of Environment Conservation and The Nature Conservancy for their partnership in helping our parks grow and improve.” 

The Nature Conservancy’s Freshwater Resilience Specialist Olivia Green said, “Across New York there are a million acres of small wetlands providing essential services to wildlife and people. Wetlands act like nature’s sponges to soak up and clean our water. Preventing development on wetlands protects people—not just against floods but against drought, too. We commend New York for leading the nation and taking action to proactively safeguard the quality of our drinking water.” 

Like all open space conservation actions undertaken by DEC, acquisitions supported by WQIP help implement the goals identified in the New York State Open Space Plan and the state’s 30x30 Initiative to conserve 30 percent of New York’s lands and water by 2030. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. The Nature Conservancy is working to make a lasting difference around the world in 77 countries and territories (41 by direct conservation impact and 36 through partners) through a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on X.