Photo by Becca Halter/ Adirondack Land Trust

The Adirondack Land Trust is honored to work in partnership with private landowners to conserve forests, waters, farmlands, and wild places, that contribute to a uniquely hopeful landscape. We’re delighted to share these stories. 

Landowner shaking hands with a staff person outside.

Q & A With Greg Fetters | Forestland Conservation Easement

      1. What were the driving factors behind your desire to conserve your property through a conservation easement?
        To prevent development, and as I grow older, I think more about it as a legacy. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware. It was always sad to see the fields and woodlots that I had played in developed into housing tracts and the back roads become dotted with new homes. That’s what drew me to the Adirondacks and the constitutional limits on development. A conservation easement was my way of doing something about it. I go for daily walks on my property rain or shine, snow or zero temps, and it is a joy to know this place I love will remain this way long after I am gone.
      2. What wildlife are you seeing on your land?
        I usually see a black bear, raccoon, porcupine, beaver, and a turtle once a year and a fisher about every other year. I have seen fox, otter, turkey, grouse, geese, ducks, heron, hawks and owls. AND a moose!
      3. Are there any special programs that you’ve enrolled your lands in or management activities you’d like to share?
        I have 100 acres enrolled in New York’s 480a program. This program reduces the assessed tax value by 80%. In the last 20 years I have had one timber harvest and donated 100% of the proceeds to the land trust’s stewardship fund. Periodic harvesting improves the quality of the forest and maintains wildlife habitat.My home is heated with a combination of passive solar and wood. Every year I harvest about four cords of firewood. I spend every weekend in the late fall cutting and hauling wood and find that this process really connects me to the land.Every other year I mow a 10-acre clearing in the late fall after the monarchs leave to allow the wildflowers and grasses to grow for the pollinators and wildlife. I have thought about putting up duck boxes around the wetlands, and maybe now that I am retired, I may actually do it.

Ben Wever Farm | Conservation Easement

Every day at Ben Wever Farm in Willsboro, Shaun Gillilland moves his herd of 60 Black Angus cattle from one grazing area to another. It keeps the cows fed and allows the grasses to regenerate and retain soil. His wife, Linda, does the same with their Katahdin sheep. Their work is accompanied by a soundtrack of moos and bleats and aided by a trio of farm dogs.

The Gillillands’ home and farmstand, where they sell USDA-inspected beef, lamb, and chicken, are set back 350 feet from Mountain View Drive. Two red barns and other agricultural accoutrements are part of the scene. Expansive fields that provide habitat for such grassland birds as eastern meadowlark stretch toward a skyline that frames Camel’s Hump in Vermont. Their daughter, Chauntel, and son-in-law, Pierre-Luc Gélineau, live down the street and are a big part of this multigenerational farm operation.

Conserving 294 acres of farmland here is as much about preserving productive soils and a way of life as it is about preserving habitat for salmon. At the far edge of the fields, intact forests roughly 300 feet wide and more than two miles long help to cool the water in the Boquet River, which is important to coldwater fish.

In Willsboro, where the Boquet joins Lake Champlain, each water body plays a role in sustaining landlocked Atlantic salmon, a native species on a long pathway to recovery since going locally extinct in the 1800s. As town supervisor, Shaun supported the removal of the Saw Mill Dam in 2015 to restore upstream spawning habitat.

As private landowners, through a permanent conservation easement with the Adirondack Land Trust, the Gillillands are contributing to a much larger conservation story that integrates forest and freshwater habitat protection with local food production and a strong sense of place. The family is especially proud to be keeping a promise made to Ben Wever. When they purchased the land from him in 2006, they assured him it would stay in agriculture and continue a farming tradition that dates back to 1829.

Couple posing on hiking trail

Baxter Mountain | Land Donation

A local family and the Adirondack Land Trust have conserved 107 acres and a third of a mile of shoreline on the East Branch of the Ausable River upstream of the Keene town beach.

Chris and Audrey Hyson donated the land to the Adirondack Land Trust, which will pass the gift to New York State as an addition to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

The woodland includes floodplain and the lower south face of Baxter Mountain, a prominent part of the vista from Route 73 and Marcy Field between the hamlets of Keene Valley and Keene. The tract is contiguous with New York State Forest Preserve on two sides.

For generations, the Hyson family has donated land for public benefit in the High Peaks town of Keene. Chris Hyson’s great-grandparents, George and Katharine Notman, came to Keene Valley in the late 1800s. They loved the valley and acquired substantial acreage. Over the years, many of the Notman holdings have been dispersed to the community—the site of Keene Central School is the former Notman farm. Chris’s parents, Winifred and Charles Hyson, honored their family’s wishes to maintain some of their land as Forever Wild when they donated 78 acres to the Adirondack Land Trust in 1996, including Round Top Mountain, which was later transferred to the Forest Preserve. Chris and his wife, Audrey, are continuing the tradition with this new gift of land, across the river from Notman Park and picnic area.

The Hysons had used the land for recreation and forestry. The Adirondack Land Trust will continue to keep the forest intact and pay property taxes until the land can be transferred to New York State, which also pays taxes and will open the land for hunting, fishing and potentially other recreation.

Woman and man looking at a map. The woman is pointing toward a forest.

Mays Pond | Conservation Easement

“I was just looking for a place with peace and quiet, and a lot of beauty,” said Tina Bradt, who grew up on seventh Lake in the southwest Adirondacks. In 2012, she found that place on Mays Pond, tucked into the 50,000-acre Pigeon Lake Wilderness, one of the wildest places in the East.

That’s how Bradt met the Adirondack Land Trust. She learned that we were looking for a conservation buyer for 330 acres we purchased in 2007 to limit forest fragmentation at the western edge of the wilderness.

Buying the Mays Pond tract was a big decision for Bradt, but she has no regrets. “A positive was that nothing was going to happen to the property,” she said.

She works with the Adirondack Land Trust to manage the land under a conservation easement, which is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits specified types of land use and development, now and in the future. Together Bradt and the land trust ensure that the forest, wetlands and 3,000 feet of shoreline stay mostly wild.

Bradt’s true passion is restoring historic structures. As attracted as she was to the land, she was just as interested in a log cabin on the property that was built in the 1930s for a timber dealer in search of a quiet retreat. Bradt is bringing it back to its past glory. She doesn’t mind keeping the building to its original footprint; in fact, she wouldn’t want it any other way. Her focus is on bringing out the best in this special place and sharing it with friends and family.