Drone footage from the Zoar Valley in New York
Zoar Valley View Drone footage from the Zoar Valley in New York © Andrew Nisbet

Newsroom

The Nature Conservancy Purchases 612 Acres in Zoar Valley, Conserving Land and Water and Reducing Carbon Pollution

Newly protected lands will sequester 74,000 tons of carbon, equal to keeping 16,000 cars off the road.

Buffalo, NY

Zoar Valley Depends on Us Local land protection benefits the entire planet. It helps provide clean air and water for people while also contributing to the fight against global climate change. This is the story of The Nature Conservancy's protection of 612 acres in western New York's Zoar Valley for people and for nature.

The Nature Conservancy today announced that they have acquired 612 acres of pristine forest in the Zoar Valley, in Cattaraugus County, NY. The purchase of these lands was made possible thanks to a collaboration between a private landowner, The Nature Conservancy, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC).

The preservation of these 612 acres helps to capture 74,000 tons of carbon pollution from the atmosphere—the equivalent of keeping 16,000 cars off the road—in addition to protecting New York’s land and water. Forests absorb carbon pollution, removing it from the atmosphere. The Conservancy’s research shows that protecting and restoring natural systems—mostly forests, but also grasslands, wetlands, mangroves, and sea grasses—can help the world make enormous strides in reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide. 

“Local land protection benefits the entire planet. It helps provide clean air and water for people while also contributing to the fight against global climate change,” said Jim Howe, The Nature Conservancy’s Central and Western New York chapter director. “That’s a tall order but workhorse lands like the forests of Zoar Valley are up for the challenge. It helps that they are also spectacularly beautiful. Protecting these forests give us the chance to enjoy these remarkable lands while maintaining a myriad of benefits for local communities.”

Zoar Valley’s forests filter water, clean air, provide homes and migration corridors for plants and animals, and offer amazing opportunities for recreation including canoeing and steelhead fishing. Just 40 miles from Buffalo, the region features old-growth forests, coldwater streams, fens, and towering cliffs that reach as high as 400 feet from the gorge floor. Carved long ago by Cattaraugus Creek, Zoar Valley harbors an incredible variety of large trees, including a 128-foot basswood that is the tallest of its species in the world.

When The Nature Conservancy began its work here in the early 1960s, it was largely because of Zoar Valley’s relatively undisturbed state and unique array of species. Over the years, the Conservancy has protected more than 1,100 acres of forestland in the Zoar, nearly four miles of frontage of gorge, and established Deer Lick Preserve, a designated National Natural Landmark on the South Branch of Cattaraugus Creek.  

The newly acquired property, which was sold by Herbert F. Darling, Jr. to The Nature Conservancy on January 11, is adjacent to Nature Conservancy protected lands as well as NYS DEC’s Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area and East Otto State Forest, which together comprise one of the few remaining intact forest blocks in New York’s Great Lakes region. Future collaboration between NYS DEC and The Nature Conservancy will focus on adding this property to the state’s 4,500 acres of protected lands in the Zoar Valley region.

In addition to the carbon storage benefits it offers, the land’s location in a river valley will allow plants and animals to move and adapt as the climate changes. The newly protected forestland also includes frontage on Cattaraugus Creek, which feeds the aquifer that provides drinking water for the Seneca Nation of Indians.

“The Darling family would like to thank The Nature Conservancy and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for helping us to continue the vision and stewardship of arguably some of the most beautiful and pristine land in the State of New York,” said Darling. “This latest acquisition is in accordance with my father’s legacy of keeping Western New York’s lands available for the recreational use of people who live and work here.”

“Thanks to the generosity of the Darling Family and their commitment to stewardship, this exceptional parcel will remain a protected, undeveloped wildlife habitat and eventually will become a valuable addition to the adjacent Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area,” said DEC Regional Director Abby Snyder. “DEC looks forward to collaborating with The Nature Conservancy so that the public can soon enjoy the spectacular scenery, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and enhanced outdoor access that this pristine parcel offers.”

"The Zoar Valley is an entire landscape of old growth, not just a woodlot," added Jim Battaglia, who participated in an old growth survey in the 1990s that identified the Zoar Valley and Allegany State Park as two of the most intact forest systems in Western New York. "I'm absolutely delighted that another 600-plus acres of forestland in the Zoar Valley is now protected for everyone."

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. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.