The Willowemoc easements were first created in 1989 by the Willowemoc Land Conservancy. Director Herb Heaton established the Willowemoc Conservancy to hold the easements on his 112-acres and the neighboring 46-acres owned by Mr. and Mrs. Myron Friedman. The Heatons and Friedmans were the only members of the Conservancy, but they hoped to enlist more landowners to protect other properties along the Willowemoc. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
The Willowemoc Land Conservancy sought out the Delaware Highlands Conservancy after an extensive search for an appropriate organization to hold the easements when the Heatons moved to Arizona. We were honored to accept these easements, and used them to help publicize the values of conservation easements along the trout stream to landowners and to the communities bordering the Willowemoc and the Beaverkill. There was little zoning in place to ensure protection of these prized waters that are vulnerable to damage from silt and pollution that can follow development too close to the streams.
The stated purpose of these easements is “to protect in perpetuity the natural and open space character of the protected property.” Cutting trees, clearing and grading land, constructing roads and buildings within 200 feet of the bank of the Willowemoc are prohibited. However, new structures are permitted on the rest of the land. In fact, these easements permit the equivalent of 15-acre zoning. Other conditions provide for reasonable uses of the land while at the same time protecting the environmental quality of these particular forests, fields, and streams.
Our thanks to Herb and Olga Heaton and to Mr. and Mrs. Myron Friedman for entrusting these beautiful lands to our care and getting the Conservancy off to a great start. We always do our best to achieve our conservation mission here along the western watershed of the Catskills, and we will work with the new landowners to ensure that the conditions of these easements are respected.
By Barbara Yeaman