In the 1980s and the early 1990s, a diverse group of dedicated people recognized the need for a land trust in Western New York. Throughout the region, forests and farmlands were being lost to rapid urban expansion, even as the region lost population. After many meetings, thoughtful discussions, and much paperwork, the Western New York Land Conservancy was formally registered as a new not-for-profit organization in 1991.
At its beginning, the Land Conservancy was an all-volunteer group. The four founders included John Daleo, Ken Koehler, Emily “Lee” Oprea, and John Whitney. Henry Kreher joined the group shortly after it was formed. These dedicated organizers spent much of their time getting the word out to landowners and like-minded farmers and conservationists. It wasn’t until 1995 that we protected our first properties: the thirty acres in Elma between Buffalo and Little Buffalo Creek donated by Robert and Marie Janusz, the twelve acres of wetlands along Spring Brook in the Town of Concord donated by Robert and Patricia Andrews, and the four-acre wooded parcel near Franklin Gulf in Eden donated by Maurice Spectoroff. Soon after, we signed our first conservation easement, Gun Creek Woods on Grand Island.
By 1997 we had over 300 members. The same year we hired our first paid staff, and by the following year we would have our first full-time executive director. New properties kept coming in and we would soon have offices at the Farm and Home Center on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora.
Our impact would begin growing exponentially. In November of 2000, after a long capital campaign, we purchased the crown jewel of our protected properties: Kenneglenn Scenic and Nature Preserve in the Town of Wales. This 133-acre preserve includes portions of Hunters Creek and a spectacular gorge, as well as forests and meadows. Shortly afterwards, we began farmland protection programs in Amherst, Marilla, and then Clarence. In 2006, we placed conservation easements on the 1,256-acre Nature View Park in Amherst, our largest protected property.
Today, we work from a beautiful office at Kenneglenn. We have seven full-time and four part-time staff and more than 950 members. We hold a series of nature hikes on our protected properties each year, and have helped protect more than 6,500 acres of natural lands, farms, and scenic properties throughout Western New York.
In 2011, we published “Off To A Good Start: The Land Conservancy Turns Twenty”, a short booklet to commemorate our twenty years of work. Click HERE to download it.