For over two decades, the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) has been focused on land and water preservation in the Crooked Creek watershed between Alexandria Bay and Chippewa Bay.

These areas are one of the Thousand Islands’ most ecologically important landscapes. From the miles of scenic footpaths on the Macsherry Trail, to the rolling grasslands of TILT’s Butterfield Marsh property, the Crooked Creek Preserve now exceeds 2,100 acres of connected open space. This region is home to the wading herons, busy beavers, dabbling ducks and other wildlife that we commonly associate with the St. Lawrence. It also provides shelter and food for wider-roaming animals such as bobcats and fisher.

In recent years, the organization established a new focus on conserving lands along the Frontenac Arch wildway, also known as the Algonquin to Adirondack (A2A) corridor. The narrowest point of this wildlife highway overlaps with TILT’s Crooked Creek Preserve.

In an effort to safeguard diversity of animal species living in the Crooked Creek Preserve and beyond, TILT has acquired over 500 acres adjacent to the South Hammond State Forest. This establishes the foundation for a bridge of protected lands between the Crooked Creek Preserve and the remote forests and wetlands of the Indian River Lakes region and foothills of the Adirondacks. The goal is to fully-connect and protect the corridor that will serve as a wildlife highway in perpetuity. With this landscape-scale conservation in place, the ruffed grouse from Redwood can migrate along the St. Lawrence, the grey fox will have somewhere to safely wander their six miles per day, and the black bear their ten.

Just before the Holiday Season, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the TILT would be awarded funding for land conservation projects within the Frontenac Arch wildway. The grant award will provide TILT approximately $37,000 to assist with due-diligence expenses associated with these land acquisitions. These items include boundary marking, baseline documentation, appraisals, land surveys, geological assessments, and other related expenses associated with TILT’s acquisitions. As an Accredited Land Trust, taking these important steps, ensures that TILT is abiding by the guidelines of legal, ethical and responsible land conservation as detailed by the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices.

“The Crooked Creek and Indian River Lakes regions are tied together here,” said Jake Tibbles, executive director of TILT. He continued that there is currently a band of intact forest spanning these two wildlife strongholds. “We’re working to protect this area between the Thousand Islands and Indian River Lakes to make sure that these natural areas remain permanently wild, preventing population isolation. We’re letting nature take its course, and we are grateful for the Conservation Partnership Program’s support of this initiative.’

In addition to protecting the approximately 500 acres adjacent to the South Hammond State Forest, this past summer, TILT was able to acquire 207 acres adjacent to TILT’s Crooked Creek Preserve. Consisting of pristine forest, wetland, grassland and open-water habitats, the lands further expand the protection in the Frontenac Arch wildway.

These new conservation lands, which are identified as being climate change resilient, were listed on the open market. They include over 2 miles of creek frontage and over 2 miles of road frontage along Route 1, 11 and 37. With support from the Conservation Partnership Program and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, TILT was able to act quickly to prevent the imminent risk of habitat fragmentation that would result from these properties being developed.

“We were able to be nimble and embrace this once-in-a-lifetime land protection opportunity in the heart of the Algonquin to Adirondack corridor,” said Spencer Busler, assistant director at TILT. “If you are a wildlife enthusiast these natural areas will not disappoint, from herons to harriers to turtles to turkeys.”

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