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The Nature Conservancy Partners with State, County, Town to Preserve 308-Acre Rare Forest

Press release from The Nature Conservancy | April 26, 2005

New York City - In partnership with New York State, Suffolk County, and the Town of Southampton, The Nature Conservancy announced today the permanent preservation of a 308-acre parcel of globally rare forest, located in the heart of the Pine Barrens region, in Westhampton, Long Island.

This parcel is one of the most ecologically important pieces of privately owned vacant land remaining in the area - its protection ensures that Suffolk County residents will have clean and plentiful drinking water, while providing critical habitat for wildlife.

Characterized by its small trees that grow little more than fifteen feet tall, this area known as the "dwarf pine plains" - a unique community mostly made up of pygmy pitch pines and scrub oak. It is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, and is a favored nesting site of migrating songbirds including the prairie warbler, pine warbler, and ovenbird. Located just south of Sunrise Highway, this property provides a wide panorama of expansive pine oak forest reaching across to the Peconic bay to the north.

"While the forest is small in stature, it is huge in importance. This parcel completes a link to other preserved lands in the region, essentially closing the 'hole in the doughnut'," said Paul Rabinovitch, Executive Director for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. "The Nature Conservancy is thankful to the state, county and town in coordinating this deal for the benefit of the residents of the town of Southampton and beyond. We look forward to working again with our government partners to preserve and restore other great places on Long Island."

The acquisition of this preserve was the result of a cooperative agreement between three levels of government: New York State, Suffolk County, and the Town of Southampton. WJF Realty will be paid $11.2 million for the 308 acres and to settle its decade old litigation with the town of Southampton. The real estate transaction was negotiated and coordinated by The Nature Conservancy, which acted as intermediary and facilitator for getting the project completed.

In addition, a new and innovative use of the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) was suggested by The Nature Conservancy in putting the components of the deal together. The landowner will keep 100 development rights that can be either sold on the open market or used by the holder of these rights to add density to development in other less environmentally sensitive locations. The Nature Conservancy suggested the use of the TDR program to supplement the public funds. "In effect, the private development market is subsidizing conservation that the public strongly desires," continued Rabinovitch. "Programs such as these help preserve the important landscapes that Long Islanders want protected."

"The best success formula for land protection on Long Island has been when the state county and town partner together to protect important landscapes for future generations. The Nature Conservancy applauds Governor Pataki, County executive Levy and Supervisor Heaney for their leadership and commitment to protecting important drinking water and critical habitat that will always be in public ownership for centuries," continued Rabinovitch.

Once opened to the public, the newly-acquired preserve will offer passive recreational opportunities such as hiking and birdwatching.



Article has been adapted from a news release issued by The Nature Conservancy. Click here for the original news release.

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