Cahoon Creek passes through southwestern Otsego County, meandering through forests and fields on the way to Butternut Creek.
As it goes past the old hamlet of Maple Grove along County Route 10, it slows down for the protected wetlands of Rick O’Keefe and John Chanik, watering their wild apple trees and resident beavers on its way south.
Thanks to their dedication, and in partnership with Otsego Land Trust, Rick and John have protected 105 acres of forests, prime farmlands, wetlands, and wildlife habitat forever. In addition to this, they are actively working with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Otsego County Soil and Water to plant native trees and shrubs along the waterway to clean the waters, stabilize the creek, and improve wetlands and other wildlife habitats.
John and Rick have also participated in the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, protecting vital grasslands for birds that make their nests on the ground.
For Rick and John, conservation has become a way of life. Growing up in the Western United States, where water and arable land are invaluable, they consider the abundance of clean water and farmable land in this region an incredible resource. This drives their work to protect the beautiful working landscapes forever.
Forever is a long way off, “…I feel like it’s one step forward, things change so much, but we’re joining a larger group of landowners making a similar statement, how to be with and protect the land…and protect doesn’t mean not to use” Rick mentioned. “Learning to work with the dynamic forces of the land and water rather than against them, was a key realization for my mindset on how to conserve the irreplaceable, natural value of this area” John added.
Through local support, donors, and dedicated citizens, this region may remain clean and healthy long into the future. With working farmlands protected, and with wetlands to clean the waters, the natural resources here will continue to support rural life for years to come.
With over 2400 feet of frontage along Cahoon Creek, Rick and John have protected an important tributary to Butternut Creek. “We finally had to say, that’s ok. That’s our contribution. Someone doesn’t need a thousand acres, a science station, or [something] historic on it – it’s good enough to protect your land.” Rick mentioned. “Most land is owned privately, so it’s up to the people to protect it and use it wisely.” John responded.
Conservation is about cooperation and working together, and Otsego Land Trust was happy to partner on ‘Cahoon Fen and Forest’ and help the landowners create an easement according to what they wanted. Rick mentioned that, “ some people think that easements tell you how to conserve your land, and that’s not the case, we chose where future building sites would be, and how we would manage our forests, fields, and wetlands.”
Earlier this year, the headwaters of Cahoon Creek were conserved by Pam Lloyd – who in partnership with OLT protected 22 acres of valuable wetlands – proving that when citizens work together towards the same goal – valuable and important lands and waters can be protected.
It is no easy task to protect the woodlands, farmlands, and waters that sustain the rural communities here, but thanks to support from donors, landowners, and volunteers – we can continue to promote public health, support wildlife diversity, and inspire the human spirit. With now over 11,000 acres protected, Otsego Land Trust continues to protect the healthy lands and clean waters of our region.