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The Story of Nancy Smith

To benefit future generations living in our area, the Western New York Land Conservancy strives to protect land with significant conservation value that includes natural areas, working farmlands, wildlife habitat, and scenic landscapes. Executive Director Nancy Smith has worked with the Land Conservancy for nearly 12 years, driven by a dedication and pride that stems from a childhood immersed in magnificent wild landscapes in Virginia.

"My father directed the University of Virginia's biology field station," said Smith. "As a result, the summers of my youth were spent in the mountains with college students who were passionate about the environment. Their commitment was contagious."

With Smith's strong leadership and a staff of devoted employees, the Land Conservancy is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016. In the past two and a half decades, the organization has helped protect more than 6,000 acres of land across the eight counties of Western New York. Much of this land remains in agriculture once protected. On many of the protected nature preserves, the Land Conservancy organizes hiking or educational programs so that these amazing protected places can become part of fabric of people's lives.

"What inspires me each day is that our children and grandchildren will continue to have the opportunities to enjoy natural land," explained Smith. "To do this, we need our society to understand the importance of being connected to nature. "

A recent project of the Land Conservancy is the Stella Niagara Preserve – the highest profile project in the organization's history. In May 2015, after raising $3.6 million the organization purchased the 29 acres of the preserve from the Sisters of St. Francis in Lewiston, New York. This addition relieved many area residents who feared that the land would be converted to commercial or residential real estate. Once the land was acquired, the Land Conservancy hired nationally renowned ecological designer, Darrel Morrison, to lead the project in creating a world-class nature preserve.

"We're thrilled with the progress of the designs crafted for the Stella Niagara Preserve," said Smith. "We are creating seven different ecological communities and an elegant trail system, all planted with native plants for the public to enjoy and admire."

The Stella Niagara Preserve is not the only focal project for the Land Conservancy. The organization works with municipalities throughout Western New York to protect as much natural land and farmland as possible.

The Land Conservancy has a bright future. The organization recently finished a five-year strategic plan which includes impacting climate resiliency, exploring urban-focused projects, and protecting land that impacts Western New York water quality. As part of this plan, the organization will also be working with one stream corridor that flows through several towns and villages – the Buffalo Creek. Smith describes this strategy as promoting connectivity that further spurs the quality of land preservation and conservation.

"Connectivity is very important. By preserving land that is connected to our waterways, we'll be able to enhance the quality of water obtained by our communities," explained Smith. "That's what we're about – preserving and creating a better life for those living in Western New York."