The Finger Lakes Land Trust has launched a new initiative to expand the organization’s current water protection efforts. Toxic algae outbreaks within each of the Finger Lakes have generated alarming headlines over the last few years, prompting the Land Trust to take immediate action.

Toxic algae, also referred to as harmful algal blooms, are actually cyanobacteria – naturally occurring organisms that thrive in relatively still, warm, waters rich in nutrients. When algae blooms form and cyanobacteria degrade, many release toxins including microcystins that can be harmful to aquatic and human life. At concentrated levels, these toxins pose a serious threat to the water quality in our lakes.

The Land Trust is reaffirming its commitment to protect the region’s clean waters by escalating its work in five strategic areas:

Protecting lakeshore and stream corridors will help prevent erosion, pollution, and nutrient runoff from entering our lakes. With support from New York State and private funders, the Land Trust has been increasing efforts to save the last remaining undeveloped lakeshore from development as well as protect pristine frontage on key tributaries to the Finger Lakes.

Creating natural buffers along the streams will restore our lakes’ natural filtration system. Many streamside areas have been cleared of trees and shrubs to allow for agriculture or development. To restore this important natural system, the Land Trust will plant trees and shrubs along streams in areas that will be permanently protected.

Restoring streams and wetlands to slow storm water runoff will protect lakes during intense rain events. For nearly 200 years, drainage systems in our region have been enhanced in an attempt to dry farm fields and developed areas in the spring and to keep roads from flooding.  These efforts have the dual-effect of increasing nutrient runoff to lakes. To restore some of the resilience of our original landscape, the Land Trust will work with partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rehabilitate wetlands and streams that have been straightened.

An educational resource hub about toxic algae is now online at fllt.org/water. Find easily accessible information about toxic algae and steps that individuals can take to reduce nutrient runoff. Staff will be updating the resources available on the site regularly and will also be out in the field meeting with landowners, community organizations, town officials and others.

Strengthening partnerships with lake associations to complement local watershed protection efforts. Each of the 11 Finger Lakes is served by a non-profit lake association or watershed group and working together will maximize their collective impact.

Visit fllt.org/water to learn more about the Land Trust’s efforts to protect the lakes, streams, and drinking water; explore beautiful maps of the Finger Lakes region’s watersheds; and find out what you can do to safeguard water quality in the Finger Lakes.

By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the organization has protected more than 23,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland.  The Land Trust owns and manages a network of over 35 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 140 properties that remain in private ownership.

The Land Trust focuses on protecting critical habitat for fish and wildlife, conserving lands that are important for water quality, connecting existing conservation lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. The organization also provides programs to educate local governments, landowners, and local residents about conservation and the region’s unique natural resources.

Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at www.fllt.org.  Information on the region’s premiere destinations for outdoor recreation may be found at www.gofingerlakes.org, a resource created by the Land Trust to encourage people to get outdoors.