"Bigger is Better"

By: Aliana Young

Volume 16, Issue 2, February 2021

Growing the Crooked Creek Preserve and New Protection on Grindstone.

The Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) ’s 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 most significant preservation initiatives.

Building upon this concept is 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.’ TILT’s strategic conservation mission is to conserve large swaths of connected habitat to promote biodiversity and prevent habitat fragmentation.

Hemlock stand on Wilton property. [Photo courtesy Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT)]

Growing the Crooked Creek Preserve

This summer, TILT checked both of these boxes by acquiring two parcels of land containing 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.

Wetlands on Wilton property adding to Crooked Creek Preserve. [Photo courtesy Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) 

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 which 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.”

New Protection on Grindstone Island

Ken’s conservation legacy was carried out once again this summer on Grindstone Island with the Ramseier conservation easement closing. 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 undeveloped shoreline’s natural beauty 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.

Coastal marsh protected by the Ramseier conservation easement. [Photo courtesy Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT)

“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.

By Aliana Young, Education and outreach coordinator, Thousand Islands Land Trust, Clayton NY.

Aliana Young serves as TILT's Education and Outreach Coordinator, where she is responsible for planning and organizing TILTreks and Events, manages the Volunteer Program and the Boat Launch Steward Program, and promotes TILT through marketing and outreach.
Aliana holds a B.S. in Biology from Lafayette College and a Master’s of Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. She comes to TILT with experience in environmental education, working as a dolphin tour guide in the Outer Banks of NC, an interpreter at a PA zoo, and most recently as a member of Duke Marine Lab’s Community Science Initiative, where she developed lesson plans on water quality and engaged elementary students in a year-long program on marine debris.

This article first appeared in Thousand Islands Sun, and the TILT Reflections newsletter. Visit TILT for more information on all of its preserves and hiking trails.

Posted in: Volume 16, Issue 2, February 2021, News article, Nature

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