By Protecting Land, We’re Protecting Water Quality

Article by LGLC Executive Director Jamie Brown, printed in the Lake George Mirror, 08/27/2021 (link downloads complete issue – see article on page 6)

Imagine if we did nothing to protect the land that surrounds Lake George. Instead of seeing the special natural places that we now enjoy, imagine seeing a landscape without trees, lined with buildings and driveways, filled-in wetlands, and polluted streams. Picture a watershed with thousands of acres of spoiled views, fragmented habitat, and unchecked invasive species. Without a healthy watershed the lake’s remarkable water quality would severely suffer.

Happily, this is not a reality that we need consider. For over thirty years, the Lake George Land Conservancy, along with many of you, has worked to protect the land that protects the lake. Together, we have protected and cared for nearly 12,000 acres of vital and sensitive land that filters and cleans billions of gallons of runoff before it flows into the lake. The LGLC willingly takes on this responsibility as permanent owners and caretakers of the land to ensure that the land protects the lake. It is our obligation as an Accredited Land Trust to ensure the long-term protection of land. But ultimately, protecting and caring for the land forever is what we as the “land people” do to  protect Lake George.

With nearly half of the land in the Lake George watershed protected, the lake’s water quality continues to remain higher than most other water bodies. Protecting land is a proven strategy to protect water quality of drinking water sources throughout the nation. New York City offers one of the best examples, with its famously high-quality drinking water drawn from reservoirs surrounded by protected land. The city has been allowed to avoid expensive water filtration equipment because the drinking water from its reservoirs is cleaned by the natural filtering process performed by thousands of acres of protected forests, wetlands, and stream corridors that surround the reservoirs. Cities including Syracuse, NY, Boston, MA, Portland, ME, and San Antonio/
Austin, TX have also followed this model of protecting land to protect water quality.

These polices are based in the science that shows how natural landscapes provide clean water. Studies prove that the less natural areas that surround and feed water into streams, the lower the water quality in the streams and their connected water bodies. Wetlands absorb, slow, and filter water helping to maintain water quality. During storm events, individual trees capture hundreds of drops of rain, slowing and filtering water as it flows into the lake. Stream corridors’ natural shapes and courses slow water to limit sediment and debris entering into the lake. As it has for  millennia, the land continues to provide Lake George with many excellent low-cost, efficient, and proven protection against threats to water quality.

Protecting land to provide such protection for the lake is EXACTLY the Lake George Conservancy’s job. We are not anti-development and recognize that people can and should build their homes and earn a living within the watershed where appropriate. However, we know the land and we know that in certain places it must be protected to naturally filter the water that goes into the lake. This protected land provides other benefits too, such as habitat, recreational opportunities, amazing views, economic benefits, and allows us to forever maintains the beauty and feeling of this special place and pass that on to future generations.

The LGLC recently announced the details of our latest project: an amazing and iconic piece of land that, once protected, will include ½ mile of shorefront on the lake, ½ mile of stream corridor, wonderful wildlife habitat, and protect a beautiful view by preventing the development of land that will benefit the lake and everyone by remaining in its natural state. We protect so many different types of land. In the past few years, we have protected a 25-acre parcel with vernal pools and wetlands, a 300-acre forested tract, and a 60-acre beaver pond, just to name a few. All of these projects represent what the LGLC does. All of these lands come together to create a mosaic of protected land that will forever protect the lake that we all love. Together, we are creating an amazing legacy that is protected forever and will be passed onto future generations. We thank those who have supported our efforts for being a part of this important work.