VESTAL, NY – A new organization dedicated to preserving natural areas in Greater Binghamton has received a boost.

The Southern Tier Land Conservancy was formed in 2020 with the goal of protecting pristine landscapes similar to what’s already protected at the Binghamton University Nature Preserve.

The land trust was founded by friends Jeff Merrill and Jason Shaw with assistance from BU professor Carl Lipo.

Both Merrill and Shaw grew up in Vestal and moved to the west coast for a time before returning to our area.

They say they gained a greater appreciation for the natural beauty of our area when they came back.

“We do have a large developed valley but it’s not very far that you drive and you’re out in the rural wild lands, so to speak. To be able to preserve some of that would be an exciting thing for this area,” Merrill says.

Merrill, who is President of the Conservancy and Shaw, who is Treasurer, say Greater Binghamton lacked an organization for protecting natural spaces similar to the nearby Finger Lakes Land Trust.

But they didn’t want to rush head-on into it, and have already declined offers of donated land.

Shaw, who is also a Broome County Legislator, says an 11,500 dollar grant from the Land Trust Alliance will help the Conservancy write its strategic plan.

“It’s more than just own it and forget about it. We’re not trying to take it off, away from people. We’re trying to make something that people can enjoy and that does require a certain amount of care,” he said.

The Conservancy received a matching grant from the Robert F Schumann Foundation.

Shaw says the Conservancy has to plan for ongoing costs should it acquire land, such as addressing invasive species and maintaining trails and other infrastructure for public access.

He says donations and conservation easements can qualify a donor for tax benefits.

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