The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce recently recognized Otsego Land Trust as the first recipient of its Environmental Stewardship Award. The award recognizes the organization’s positive impact and efforts to enhance Otsego County by protecting its land and waters.
“We are greatly humbled by the presentation of this award,” said Sara Scheeren, development and finance manager of the Otsego Land Trust. “We take great pride in our mission of community-based conservation.”
With a mission to “conserve our natural heritage of woodlands, farmlands and waters that sustain rural communities, promote public health, support wildlife diversity and inspire the human spirit,” Otsego Land Trust has partnered with more than 100 landowners in Otsego, southern Herkimer, western Schoharie and northern Delaware Counties, preserving 11,000 acres forever.
Beginning in 1988 as an all-volunteer effort, the organization has grown from a staff of one to five with paid intern positions during the summer months. OLT uses tools such as a conservation easement – a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that permanently conserves land and water. Conservation easements are just one of the ways the OLT protects land in the area. If a landowner donates a property or provides the funding to buy a specific parcel, that gets turned into a public access site. The Blueway encompasses 500 acres that are open to the public. The Blueway is a series of OLT owned and protected places that provide access to fishing, hiking, paddling, bird watching and educational opportunities from Canadarago Lake to the Susquehanna River and Otsego Lake.
“Our main goal is not just the land, but people connecting with the land,” states Scheeren. “We hope that we’re creating conservationists of tomorrow. Any time we can raise awareness to our mission, that’s great. When someone takes note and puts us on a platform like this, we’re greatly appreciative of their support,” said Scheeren. “We strive to protect land, but also to instill a conservation effort in the surrounding community’s heart and we’ve been working very hard at increasing our relevancy to our region, so this is validation that we’re doing the right thing here and that we’re making a difference.”