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Partner Profile: Western New York Land Conservancy

Highlighting the Value and Beauty of Native Plants to Ensure Biodiversity and Resiliency in the Park & Our Community

This month we are profiling our partners at the Western New York Land Conservancy (Land Conservancy).  The Land Conservancy is a regional, non-profit land trust that over the past 32 years has helped protect more than 8,000 acres of land with significant conservation value in Western New York to benefit future generations.  Successes include the Stella Niagara Preserve on the Niagara River in Lewiston; the College Lodge Forest, a spectacular preserve with old growth trees in Fredonia; and a co-led campaign to secure farmland for the Providence Farm Collective and provide a place for Black, immigrant, refugee, and low-income farmers to grow fresh, nutritious produce with cultural significance for their families and communities.  In Buffalo, the Land Conservancy is developing the Riverline. The Riverline will transform the elevated former DL&W rail corridor along the Buffalo River into a string of vibrant and engaging experiences in nature that everyone can enjoy, only steps away from downtown.

How has the Land Conservancy been involved in supporting Ralph Wilson Park?

The Land Conservancy was honored to participate in the stakeholder meetings as community input was gathered and designs for the park evolved.  We are vociferous advocates for including native plants in the ecologically focused areas of the park and were thrilled to be selected to support the many ways native plants will be showcased in the park.  We participated in the groundbreaking event (photo below) to share information about the benefits of native wildflowers and grasses, and we were happy to give away some plants so that community members could experience those same benefits at home.

Our current focus is on hand collecting seeds from wild places in our region, carefully processing, storing and testing the seeds and working with local growers to ensure that robust plants arrive on time for planting in Ralph Wilson Park (see photo at bottom of the page). This work is being funded through a grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

Why Native Plants?

Native plants provide so many benefits.  For many of the plants the seeds will be collected locally. Locally-sourced native plants are perfectly matched with the butterflies, birds, and other pollinators that rely on them for their habitat.  The monarch and songbirds migrating along Lake Erie will have an important stopover point on their journey. Once established, the plants will thrive with a reduced need for added resources like fertilizer, helping to protect our fresh water.  Deeply rooted native plants reduce runoff, another water quality benefit.  They will also be beautiful, mesmerizing accents in the new landscape.

How will your involvement impact the Park?

This fall the Land Conservancy organized an educational trip to the Meadoway in Toronto (pictured below).  As one of Canada’s largest linear parks, the Meadoway uses native plants in a magnificent, ecologically-based community building project, stitching together 15 parks and greenspaces. 

In learning from our neighbors, we will help ensure the best possible outcome for the meadows being created at Ralph Wilson Park.

How will the Land Conservancy’s efforts impact the broader community?

Beyond enhancing the park visitor’s experience and the habitat values the native plants provide, this effort will also expand the capacity of local businesses and growers to provide native plants – for other restorations projects AND for inspired residents to add more native plants to their own home gardens and yards.  By highlighting the value and beauty of native plants, the park will become a place of exploration, learning, and inspiration that will make our entire community more resilient, bio-diverse, and vibrant.