A sandhill crane is pictured flying over a river with reflections of nearby trees in view. The sky in background is light orange, likely from a sunset.
Seneca Wetlands The two newly acquired wetland parcels are located on the east side of the Seneca River, also part of the Erie Canal. © Flickr Creative Commons

Newsroom

The Nature Conservancy Conserves Biodiverse, Flood-Buffering Wetlands Near Syracuse

The Nature Conservancy in New York is pleased to announce its acquisition of two wetland parcels on the east side of the Seneca River—also part of the Erie Canal—in Onondaga County, New York. The parcels, which lie in the river’s floodplain, are located about 14 miles from downtown Syracuse and total approximately 88 acres. The preservation of these lands will help protect people and property during and after storms by absorbing floodwaters and conserve an area important to birds and other wildlife. The wetland acres are located across the river from the Conservancy’s existing 222-acre Seneca River Preserve. Protecting these lands ensures that boaters and paddlers will be able to experience undeveloped wetland and wildlife habitat spanning both sides of the river.   

Honeywell International Inc. conveyed the parcels to The Nature Conservancy as part of a consent decree that includes $25,000 in stewardship funding.

“Protecting these wetlands from development will mean the floodplain can continue to absorb floodwaters well into the future and will help safeguard local residents and businesses from flooding dangers in the region,” says Stevie Adams, a climate adaptation specialist with The Nature Conservancy in New York. Almost 14,500 people live within the county’s floodplain and, in the last decade, the area has been included in three federal disaster declarations related to excessive rain and flooding. Estimates from the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University are that by 2050, extreme precipitation in the area will increase by 15-20 percent and what are now 100-year rain events will double in frequency.

Maintaining the wetlands and the existing floodplain in this area is especially important. “This part of the Seneca River carries an enormous amount water flowing from six of the eleven Finger Lakes. When heavy rain falls, the amount of water increases until the riverbanks can no longer contain it,” Adams explains. “These natural lands give those waters a temporary place to go. Without them, water could back up causing flooding upstream and on Onondaga Lake.”

Mat Levine, The Nature Conservancy in New York’s director of land assets, notes that it’s rare to find an undeveloped floodplain complex so close to an urban area. The parcels might also serve as habitat for the federally endangered Indiana bat, which resides in the region, and the Conservancy’s preserve across the river is known to serve as a home to several bird species in decline in other parts of the state, including blue-gray gnatcatchers, wood thrushes and northern water thrushes. “We can’t say for certain that Indiana bats are on the new property now. But we will manage for them,” Levine says. The opportunity to provide habitat for these important species, along with the floodplain benefits and potential for enhanced use of the river make this acquisition a “win-win-win scenario for residents of this region,” he says.

“Protecting this important piece of the Seneca River’s floodplain, helps us expand nature’s benefits in Syracuse and the surrounding area,” says Jim Howe, The Nature Conservancy’s Central and Western New York chapter director. “It also helps us make progress on two global goals simultaneously: adapting to a changing climate and preserving biodiversity.”  

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 and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, 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.