The Owasco Inlet watershed. The Finger Lakes Land Trust recently acquired land around the watershed through a conservation easement.

The Owasco Inlet watershed. The Finger Lakes Land Trust recently acquired land around the watershed through a conservation easement.


The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) today announced it has permanently protected 93 acres in the town of Groton, Tompkins County with a conservation easement. Wholly located in the Owasco Lake watershed, the land was originally donated to the FLLT in 2019 from the estate of Katherine Sutphin with the understanding that it would be sold subject to an easement.

The property features wetlands, agricultural fields, mature woodlands, and 4,710 feet of frontage on the Owasco Inlet and an unnamed tributary. As they flow north to the lake, these waterways provide significant habitat for a variety of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. In addition to ensuring habitat, protecting land in this area safeguards the water quality of Owasco Lake by filtering runoff to the inlet.

In June, the land was sold to a private buyer, subject to the conservation easement that will limit development and permanently protect this environmentally sensitive parcel. Proceeds from the sale will be used to support the Land Trust’s growing land protection and stewardship programs.

The FLLT continues to focus on land protection projects in the Owasco Lake watershed to address growing water quality concerns. In October 2020, the organization acquired 38 acres in the Owasco Flats, which serves as an important water quality buffer for the lake. Plans are underway to partner with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to conduct wetland restoration activities on the property during 2021.

Conservation easements are legal agreements that limit future development while allowing land to remain in private ownership and on the tax rolls. Landowners who donate conservation easements may be eligible for both state and federal tax benefits.

By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected over 26,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland. The FLLT owns and manages a network of over 35 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 157 properties that remain in private ownership.

The FLLT focuses on protecting critical habitat for fish and wildlife, conserving lands that are important for water quality, connecting existing conservation lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. The organization also provides programs to educate local governments, landowners, and residents about conservation and the region’s unique natural resources.

Information on the region’s premier destinations for outdoor recreation may be found at, a resource created by the FLLT to encourage people to get outdoors. Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at


Donna Jo Austin

Donna Jo Austin, 72 of Van Etten, NY, passed away on May 30 after a period of declining health.

Born Jan. 25, 1949, in Waverly, NY, she was the daughter of the late Taisto and Kathleen Kumpula. She graduated from Spencer High School in 1967 and attended Elmira Business Institute. She was employed with the Tompkins County Department of Social Services for over 25 years after working for the DMV in Ithaca. A number of years prior to that she served as a volunteer with the Spencer Library, a position she enjoyed greatly. 

Donna had a love of reading, particularly Westerns, watching shows from the Golden Age of Television and looked forward to visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina with family whenever she could.

She is survived by her husband of 52 years, Edward Austin; daughter Brandi Austin of Kill Devil Hills, NC; son Paul Austin of Stephens City, VA; daughter in law Allyson Austin; granddaughters Josie and Charlotte Austin. In addition, she was predeceased by her sister Karen Woolever. 

Private services will be held for immediate family. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Spencer Library.

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