The land surrounding Otsego Lake is more than just a familiar landscape. It embodies the conservation legacy handed down to us from the region's earliest settlers, who inspired James Fenimore Cooper to introduce the themes of nature and conservation in his early-American novels. Cooper’s writings moved Edward Clark to purchase farmland along a nine-mile stretch of Otsego Lake’s eastern shore and—in one of the country's first examples of landscape-scale conservation initiatives—restore it to native forest.
This commitment to conservation is reflected today in the Glimmerglass Historic District. This 15,000-acre rural historic district with Otsego Lake at its center is named after the setting of Cooper's classic American Leatherstocking Tales.
The Otsego Lake watershed fittingly encompasses some of the best examples of all three major conservation priorities of the Land Trust—working farms and forests, critical natural areas, and irreplaceable cultural landscapes. Protecting Otsego Lake today is even more important as new threats continue to emerge.
The region’s largest block of working farms extends across the northern part of the Otsego Lake watershed. The American Farmland Trust has identified this region as containing some of the state's highest-quality farmland that is at the same time under the highest threat of commercial and residential development. Losing these would be a blow not only to our nation's agricultural capacity, but to our local heritage, as well.
The agricultural fields borders that line Route 20 along the northern watershed are also home to an astounding array of grassland birds. Northern harriers and upland sandpipers—both listed as threatened species—have come to rely on farm fields for habitat in which to feed, hide from predators and raise their young. For this reason, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has identified the region as a critical grassland bird conservation area.
This wealth of natural and human landscapes has prompted the Otsego Land Trust to help ensure that the lands we cherish surrounding Otsego Lake are handed down to future generations, intact and healthy.