Matching gifts needed to create Stella Niagara Preserve; other projects get grants

Stella Niagara from WNY Land Conservancy
Photo courtesy Western New York Land Conservancy

The Western New York Land Conservancy and the Friends of the Stella Niagara Preserve have received a $200,000 challenge gift by a local couple, Pamela and Joe Priest, to help create the Stella Niagara Preserve, a new nature preserve on the Niagara River in Lewiston.

The Land Conservancy is asking residents, businesses, and foundations to donate and match this challenge gift by June 1 in order to complete the project on time and to open the preserve to the public later this year.

When this $200,000 challenge gift is matched, the project’s fundraising goal will have been met.

The total cost of creating the Stella Niagara Preserve is just over $3.2 million, and includes purchasing a 29-acre shoreline parcel from the Sisters of St. Francis, opening it to public access with walking trails, fishing, and kayak access, restoring wildlife habitat and maintaining the preserve in perpetuity.

The proceeds from the sale of the property, amounting to $2.25 million, will help the Sisters sustain their programs for youth and women including their elementary school, their educational programs to academically struggling, low-income youth in Niagara Falls, and a respite program for low-income single mothers, grandmothers raising grandchildren, and women with cancer.

The Stella Niagara Preserve property is one of the most important natural and cultural resources in our region, according to the Western New York Land Conservancy. At 29 acres and with a quarter-mile of shoreline, the property is the largest, undeveloped, privately-owned parcel of land left along the entire Niagara River. The property includes high-quality habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife, and it supports endangered and threatened species of plants and animals such as lake sturgeon and bald eagles. The property is also home to significant Native American, War of 1812, and Franciscan history.

“By protecting our natural and cultural heritage, the Stella Niagara Preserve will have positive impacts on our environment and quality of life, and will also have tremendous economic benefits,” said Dennis Brochey, supervisor of the Town of Lewiston. “The preserve promises to attract tourists, outdoor recreationists, and other visitors to our town.”

The Town of Lewiston and the Niagara River Greenway Host Communities Standing Committee recently committed $150,000 of the Town’s Greenway Recreation/Tourism Fund toward the Stella Niagara Preserve. This funding will be allocated over three years in support of the preserve’s stewardship fund, allowing the Land Conservancy to operate and maintain the preserve without burdening local taxpayers with annual costs.

“We still need $200,000 to match the challenge gift,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Land Conservancy. “The Stella Niagara Preserve is our most ambitious project ever, and the outpouring of support from the entire community has been phenomenal. It is critical that local donors – residents, businesses, and foundations alike – step up and donate before June 1 of this year to help create the Stella Niagara Preserve.”

All donations to the Stella Niagara Preserve are tax-deductible.

Donations can be made on the Land Conservancy’s website or by sending a check made payable to the “Western New York Land Conservancy” to P.O. Box 471, East Aurora, NY 14052.

Donations of all amounts are helpful, and there are several different naming opportunities for donors who contribute $10,000 or more.

For more information, please call Executive Director Nancy Smith at (716) 687-1225 or email her at nancyrs@wnylc.org.

In other news, the Western New York Land Conservancy was recently awarded $59,600 in two separate grants from the Conservation Partnership Program, funded through New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund.

The first grant will support the Land Conservancy’s efforts to protect the 108-acre Coulter Farm in the Towns of Cambria and Wilson, which will be the Land Conservancy’s largest protected farmland project in Niagara County and will help spur additional farmland protection in one of the most productive agricultural areas of the state.

The second grant will support a collaboration between the Land Conservancy and the Genesee Land Trust to engage a leading expert who will provide training and strategic guidance on building fundraising capacity.

The 2015 round of funding also included awards for several other Western New York land trusts, including Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo, Buffalo Niagara Land Trust, Genesee Land Trust, and The Nature Conservancy of Central & Western New York.

The Western New York Land Conservancy is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York for future generations. The Land Conservancy envisions a future in which working lands, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty are cherished and protected as part of the landscape and character of Western New York. The Land Conservancy is one of 1,700 land trusts nationwide, including 90 in New York State. Land trusts have protected 40 million acres over the last 20 years.

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