Look back: Aurelius wife donates 127 acres to land trust | Story

February 8, 2012

An Aurelius woman has donated 127 acres of property near the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge to the Finger Lakes Land Trust, ensuring it will remain undeveloped.

Buffalo native Kathryn Whitehorne has lived on the Aurelius lot since 1970. It started out as 180 acres, but she has since sold some of it.

She said she got her passion for conservation from her mother growing up in Buffalo.

“My mother was a spectacular gardener and had a huge interest in the outdoors,” she said. “She has spent most of her adult life in the city, eager to return to the countryside.”

Whitehorne’s mother eventually retired and moved to Aurelius with Kathryn, who kept the heavily wooded property as ecologically sound as possible.

It includes 40 acres of wetlands and substantial hardwood forest, as well as a mile of undeveloped frontage on Laraway Road, according to a news release.

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The conservation easement to the land trust will prevent any future development or subdivision. The Finger Lakes Land Trust, established in 1989, controls 83 conservation easements in the area, including a parcel bordering Bear Swamp Creek in Niles, according to the release.

“We are grateful to Kathryn for her commitment to the land and her wonderful gift to the community,” Land Trust executive director Andrew Zepp said in the statement. “This land will remain privately owned and will continue to provide exceptional wildlife habitat as well as clean water to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.”

The Whitehorne easement allows for the construction of a detached house and the selective harvesting of timber, which is already done.

Whitehorne will keep the five acres surrounding his home.

The 127 acres do not directly adjoin the wildlife refuge, but a creek connects the two. There will be no public access to the easement.

A glut of deer has damaged growing trees and engulfed the once-thick trillium beds, but Whitehorne hopes the easement will prevent more permanent changes.

“You drive down Turnpike Road and you see everything will end up being houses,” she said. “I knew about land trusts, so I thought that would be a way to prevent that from happening. … It’s a forest. It has a lot of conservation value.”

— Compiled by David Wilcox

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