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DEC awards multiple grants to regional land trusts

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Several area land trusts will receive substantial new funding through grants announced Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Indian River Lakes Conservancy, Redwood, was the largest local funding recipient, pulling in $39,250 to help develop a handicapped-accessible trail on Boyd Pond and progress toward accreditation in 2015.

“This is incredible for us,” said Elliott D. Hillback Jr., the conservancy’s president.

Mr. Hillback said the money would help develop the 24-acre pond area, which the group obtained last year in a 54-acre land purchase. He said the group had received three bids from architects and engineers to complete the work, and would make a decision soon on how to proceed.

Mark A. Scarlett, a board member who wrote the group’s grant applications, said the plan for the pond would be a trail leading to an overlook area and another trail on the waterfront leading to a launch area. Mr. Hillback said the accreditation funding would help the all-volunteer organization mature in its efforts.

Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, Watertown, received $28,000 to support a stewardship plan for the Joseph A. Blake Jr. Wildlife Sanctuary, Rutland.

“It’s pretty incredible. ... We don’t have a lot of funding for the kind of work we do,” said Linda M. Garrett, the land trust’s executive director. “To have this program is pretty instrumental.”

One goal for the space, she said, is to create a parking lot that would help to make the area more accessible to school and community groups.

“A lot of people don’t even know we exist, so we’re trying to raise our profile around the area,” Mrs. Garrett said.

The group will have a work party from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the sanctuary.

Thousand Islands Land Trust, Clayton, received $13,000 to fund surveying and management costs for the Chippewa Bay Conservation Project in the town of Hammond.

“To be quite honest, it allows TILT to basically make the project successful,” said Jake R. Tibbles, the trust’s executive director.

He said the funding available was a sign of the support conservation work had from the federal government.

The Ontario Bays Initiative, Chaumont, received $2,000 to help its accreditation efforts.

As part of the new funding, each of the groups will contribute funds equaling 25 percent of the state money they received.

Overall, the state awarded $1,417,500 in Conservation Partnership Program grants to 57 nonprofit land trusts. The grant money, offered through the state Environmental Protection Fund, will be matched by $1.3 million in private and local funding.

“These grants will go a long way in the conservation of private lands and will result in significant environmental and economic benefits for communities throughout New York,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in an email. “By increasing open space funding by $2.5 million in this year’s budget, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has placed a priority on preserving and conserving New York’s natural resources. This dedicated source of funding will continue to cover critical environmental and land conservation programs.”

DEC’s statement Thursday said that since 2002, the Conservation Partnership Program has awarded more than $8 million in grants for 509 projects benefiting 83 different land trusts across the state.

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