Introducing the recently established Ontario
Lake Plains Resource Conservation and Development Council (Lake
Plains RC&D) office, located in Albion,
New York. The Lake Plains RC&D area was authorized by the
Secretary of Agriculture in March of 1998 and currently includes
Erie, Genesee, Orleans, Monroe, Niagara and Wayne Counties. Designation
of the area as a Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D)
area was supported by legislative resolutions of the six counties
identified above. Lake Plains RC&D Council, Inc. was formed for
the purpose of increasing the cooperation between the member goals,
and strategies. The objectives include:
- To develop and implement resource conservation and development
programs in an effort to improve living and economic conditions
within the six county area,
- To coordinate and assist in implementing the goals, and
The objectives include:
- To develop and implement resource conservation and development
programs in an effort to improve living and economic conditions
within the six county area,
- To coordinate and assist in implementing the local and
regional development plans of the other organizations and
- To secure the needed technical, financial, educational,
and other services required to develop and implement appropriate
- To utilize local private resources to the utmost in preference
to aid from government sources.
| General Description of the Area
The Lake Plains RC&D area (2,378,600 acres in size) is located
in Western New York. Lake Ontario forms the northern boundary,
Lake Erie and the Niagara River (Canadian border) create
the western boundary, Seneca Trail RC&D and Sullivan Trail
RC&D form the southern boundary, and Cayuga County forms
the eastern boundary. The region is often referred to as
the "Lake Plains Region". Agriculture comprises a major
part of the economies of the six counties. In fact, agricultural
land use occurs on approximately 38% of the total land area
or 899,000 acres. The 4,655 farms in the six counties produce
agricultural goods valued at $440 million in 1997. Farms
are generally small in size averaging 193 acres. The region
has a high percentage of prime and unique farmland. The
favorable climate, fairly large acreage of good soils, and
excellent markets contribute to a diversified agriculture.
The moderation of temperature by air currents passing over
Lake Erie and Lake Ontario make the region ideal for growing
peaches, cherries, apples, and other fruits as well as a
variety of vegetables. Vineyards are also found in the area.
The region's forest resources are also abundant. Forested
lands constitute 845,000 acres or approximately 35% of the
RC&D Council, Inc.
The Lake Plains RC&D Council, Inc. is an independent
501 (c) (3) non-profit organization directed by local citizens.
A 501 (c) (3) is an organization designated by the IRS as a "Charitable
Organization"; donations to Organizations with 501 (c) (3) tax
status can be tax deductible.
What Is The
Resource Conservation & Development
The RC&D is a national program that helps communities
improve their economies through the wise use and development of
natural resources. Currently there are 315 RC&D Areas designated
for USDA assistance by the Secretary of Agriculture. In New York,
communities have used the RC&D program to improve watershed conditions,
attract new forest industries, upgrade town parks, and improve
farm profits. The purpose of the RC&D program is to accelerate
the conservation, development and utilization of natural resources,
improve the general level of economic activity, and to enhance
the environment and standard of living in authorized RC&D areas.
It improves the capability of State, Tribal and Local units of
government and local nonprofit organizations in rural areas to
plan, develop and carry out programs for resource conservation
and development. The program also establishes or improves coordination
systems in rural areas. The USDA Natural Resource Conservation
Service (NRCS) provides administrative support for the RC&D program
including office space and staff. Current program objectives focus
on improvement of quality of life achieved through natural resources
conservation and community development which leads to sustainable
communities, prudent use (development), and the management and
conservation of natural resources.
How Does The
RC&D Program Work
Local people plan and carry out programs in each
RC&D area through the RC&D Council, which includes representatives
from local sponsoring agencies and groups. The RC&D Council and
committee members include people from all walks of life - farmers,
bankers, politicians, consumers, business people and others who
volunteer their time to help make their community a better place
to live. The Council identifies the community needs, plan projects
to address those needs and secures help from appropriate state,
federal, and private agencies to get the job done. The Council
also appoints committees to advise on specific natural resource
areas of concern, such as recreation, watershed protection, agriculture
and forestry. Committee members usually include interested citizens
with expertise in the committee's area of responsibility and professional
advisers from local, state, and federal agencies. In New York
the RC&D program serves over half the state.
These meetings have been attended by representatives
of local governments, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, state
and federal governments, county governments, Environmental Management
Councils, Grange, Farm Bureau, Federations of Sportsmen, local
Cooperative Extension Offices, Chambers of Commerce, County Water
Quality Strategy Committees, County Planning Boards, and County
Economic/Industrial Development agencies. These meetings focused
upon soliciting information on the problems of the area and establishing
a sense of priority for local issues. High priority issues identified
during these sessions included farmland protection, water quality,
recreation, tourism, improvement of infrastructure, and marketing
of Agricultural (Ag) products.
The Lake Plains RC&D Council conducts official meetings
six times per year. The meetings are open to the public. The members
of the Council represent the following sponsoring organizations:
each of the six county legislatures; each of the six soil and
water conservation districts; and at-large members from each county.
In addition, there are regular ex-officio members representing
such groups as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS),
Cornell Cooperative Extension Service (CCE), Farm Service Agency
(FSA), Rural Development (RD), NYS Department of Environmental
Conservation, US Forest Service and various and private organizations
and groups. At its annual meeting in February of each year, the
Council elects officers, and reports on the previous year's accomplishments.
The Lake Plains
RC&D Council has identified its immediate goals to be
- To Cooperate with local and state agencies in identifying
sources of technical and financial assistance available for
improving farm labor training.
- Assist in the coordination of regional recreational and
- Cooperate with the county water quality strategy committees
and other cooperating agencies to determine technical and
financial solutions to abate surface and ground water problems.
- Promote local agricultural products and enterprises to
encourage consumption and rural development.
- Advocate activities both educational and legislative that
will encourage farmland preservation.
- Assist local government in finding economically viable
solutions to infrastructure problems such as inadequate roads
and bridges, as well as, the closure of hazardous waste sites.
RC&D Resource Concerns
Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are two of the world's largest
fresh water bodies and offer a wide variety of opportunities not
only as a source of fresh water for consumption (municipal supply
and irrigation) but also greatly contributes to the region's economy
via recreational and tourism activities. During the past thirty
years point and non-point sources of pollution have threatened
the lake's water quality. Examples of these sources of pollution
include agricultural and heavy industrial contamination as well
as inadequate septic disposal. Within the Great Lakes chain 40
"hot spots" have been identified by the International Great Lakes
Commission and the Environmental Protection agency as requiring
immediate remediation. Three of these "hotspots", the Niagara
River (Erie and Niagara County); Rochester Embayment (Monroe &
Genesee Counties); and Eighteen Mile Creek (Niagara County) are
located within the Lake Plains RC&D Area. Pesticides and inorganic
fertilizers applied to high value specialty crops in excessive
amounts pose a potential hazard for sources of both ground and
surface water. Additionally dairy, beef, hog, sheep, and poultry
farms produce tons of manure annually, that is often applied to
area soils in excess of tolerable limits which increase nutrient
levels in surface and ground water supplies. Erosion and sediment
from commercial and residential construction sites as well as
highway construction is contributing to the degradation of the
region's water quality. According to the June 1996 NYS Department
of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Non-point Assessment Report
(NAR) which was submitted to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
95 streams in the Ontario Lake Plains RC&D area are considered
impaired, stressed, or threatened by various non-point sources
of pollution and are high priority candidates for watershed planning.
170 miles of shoreline along Lake Ontario experiences varying
degrees of erosion annually. The resulting loss of land does not
only contribute to the degradation of the lake's water quality
but the eroding bluffs and shoreline are continually encroaching
upon commercial and residential dwellings resulting in the potential
loss of property, services, and life. Compounding the shoreline
erosion problem is the fact that Lake Ontario is the final lake
in the Great Lakes Chain and can not control its inflow. Conversely,
the outflow is artificially regulated by the International Joint
Commission to accommodate shipping and hydropower generation.
Therefore, the maintenance of the lake level has presented an
ongoing conflict between industry and shoreline residents. Closely
associated with such shoreline erosion is the continual need for
stream channel maintenance and protection. According to New York's
EASI study there are more than 6,200 miles of stream bank in the
five county Ontario Lake Plain area, which annually lose more
than 732 thousand tons of soil. This stream bank erosion often
threatens roads, bridges, and other infrastructure facilities,
as well as inhibits travel of daily traffic such as school buses,
emergency vehicles, as well as private and commercial vehicles.
Recreation and tourism also play a significant part in the
economies of these six counties. Boating, fishing, water sports,
cross-country skiing, hiking, and hunting provide countless recreational
opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. There are a number of
State and local Parks in the area. Niagara Falls and the Seaway
Trail Scenic By-Way also exist within the RC&D area. The Lake
Plains RC&D Area also lies within the North Atlantic Flyway of
migrating waterfowl. One federal wildlife preserve (Iroquois)
as well as two state wildlife refuges (Tonawanda and Oak Orchard)
provide both passive (bird watching) and active (hunting) recreation.
Through extensive efforts of the state and federal governments
to reduce toxins, phosphorous, and sediment levels over the past
13 years water quality in Lake Ontario has improved. In the early
and mid 1980's the Lake became a premier salmonoid fishery. This
change on the lake's fishery has had a significant effect on the
region's economy. A joint study by NYSDEC and New York's Sea Grant
program reported that revenues generated in 1978 by sport fishing
on Lake Ontario amounted to $483,763.00. By 1990 these same counties
had realized $6.79 million in revenue from sport fishing. Ironically
with the steady improvement of water quality in Lake Ontario there
has been a dramatic decline in alewife and smelt (primary salmon
and trout food) populations thereby reducing sport fishing opportunities.
Therefore, the potential exists for a down turn in this fresh
water fishery, which is vital to the region's economy. With the
passage of a state referendum the NYS Barge Canal System was transferred
from the NYS Department of Transportation to NYS Thruway Authority.
This transfer opened up numerous commercial opportunities for
water based recreation as well as additional tourism enterprises.
A significant portion of the Erie Canal and the Canalway Trail
are located in the Ontario Lake Plains RC&D area.
Solid Waste Management
Genesee, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, and Wayne Counties contain
153 targeted hazardous material landfills as identified by the
NYSDEC and NYS Department of Health publication "Inactive Hazardous
Waste Disposal Sites in NY" published in April 1993. Erie County
has the highest number of superfund sites in the state. Problems
associated with these sites are contaminated surface and ground
water supplies, contaminated soils as well as wells needing carbon
filters. Known carcinogens and toxins such as arsenic, chromium,
selenium, PCB's, cyanides, nickel, dieldrin, lead, TCA, TCE, magnesium
are causes of such contamination's. In order to comply with mandated
procedures to close and clean up these sites local units of governments
will be faced with substantial financial burdens.
Conflicts regarding land use management are taking place within
the Lake Plains region. Competition from residential and commercial
development is adversely effecting the availability of prime and
unique farmland as well as quality open space. Although, agriculture
is still a primary industry of the six county area (Ag. products
marketed in 1997 exceeded a value of $440 million), NY Ag statistics
from 1980-1997 show a drastic decline in the number of farms.
In 1980 there were 6,003 active farms. In the year 1997 the number
of farms dropped to 4,655 representing a 22 % decline in number
of farms. In addition to urban development pressures, other factors
contributing to the reduction in number of farms and farmland
acreage include but are not limited to: high taxes, high cost
of machinery, fuel, maintenance, loss of viable markets and loss
of farm labor. American Farmland Trust on March 20, 1997 identified
the Ontario Plan and Finger Lakes region of western New York as
the 11th most threatened agricultural area in the United States.
American Farmland Trust stated "America's best farmland is in
trouble, and the problem is particularly acute in the Ontario
Plain and Finger Lakes Region." said Jerry Cosgrove, AFT's New
York field director. "Acre by acre, the region's farmland is being
overrun and destroyed by scattershot urban development. Suburban
sprawl is consuming some of the nations best agricultural land,
causing inefficient use of land, roads, and other infrastructure
and creating serious traffic, congestion and air pollution problems."
Agriculture continues to be the number one industry in New
York State and significantly influences the economies of the six
counties in the Lake Plains region. However, for more than a decade
agricultural enterprises throughout the region as well as the
rest of New York have been faced with narrower profit margins.
In an attempt to subsidize current incomes many farms and agriculturally
related organizations are promoting and exploring how existing
farm operations can diversify into a variety of unique enterprises
which are appealing to the non-farm tourists. Such endeavors include
bed and breakfasts, farm tours, raising exotic livestock, as well
as more traditional operations such as u-pick and roadside stands
to name just a few. As our population continues to become more
urbanized fewer people realize the importance of local agriculture
on their own standard of living and quality of life. The need
exists to promote local agricultural products by encouraging the
consumption of locally grown commodities as well as educating
the consumer with factual information on farming and dispelling
misinformation. In addition the opportunity exists to focus attention
on agri-tourism enterprises which can prove to be valuable in
enticing tourists to stay longer in the region. Such extended
lengths of stay can equate to additional tourist dollars, which
are produced by a multiplier effect that requires the additional
service of travel, related enterprises i.e.: hotels, restaurants,
gas stations, and retail stores.
Farmers, growers, greenhouse operators, nursery managers,
and others in related industries have become increasingly concerned
about labor issues during the past few years. The plethora of
laws, regulations, and rules that apply to their workers, coupled
with shifts in labor force trends, have made good workers harder
to find. The agricultural industry as a whole needs and wants
to know more about labor issues and their possible solutions.
An efficient transportation system is critical to the economic
viability of this six county region. A joint study conducted by
NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) and NYS Department of Agriculture
and Markets in 1984, entitled "Rural Roads & Bridge Survey," found
that nearly eight out of every ten bridges were structurally deficient
or obsolete. Therefore, were too narrow or could not carry the
weights of trucks, tractors, and other farm implements. Although
progress has been made to reduce the number of deficient bridges,
the local governments of each of these counties are faced with
the task of rebuilding a total of 40 bridges that cross the Barge
Canal. These deficient bridges pose a number of problems such
as extensive detours, inadequate fire protection, limits timeliness
of emergency vehicles, and causes excessive fuel consumption.
Added to these difficulties is the fact that such bridges are
under the jurisdiction of various local governments with minimum
dollars allocated to rehabilitate these structures.
The total population of the area (according to the 1990 Census)
is 2,094,285. Most of these people are located in the major urban
areas of Buffalo and Rochester. The work ethic of the area is
very strong but, even with the various and sundry industries present,
unemployment within the area is higher than for the rest of the
State and the Nation. Much of the unemployment is due to small
rural businesses going under and the fact that agricultural producers
are being forced to shut down for lack of competitive pricing
and adequate markets within the industry. Although metropolitan
Rochester with its extensive manufacturing keeps unemployment
relatively low and incomes high in Monroe County, even the mega
giants such as Kodak have been downsizing their workforces. Such
downsizing will have adverse effects on the region's overall economy
and employment levels. This coupled with the already lost manufacturing
opportunities of the smaller cities such as Batavia will lead
to a substantial jump in the unemployment rate in the near future.
In addition, the traditional fruit and vegetable agriculture of
the area is suffering due to lack of solid reliable markets, outside
controlled prices of goods, and very severe competition for land
resources (i.e. urban sprawl). Therefore, a major focus for the
RC&D Council is to network with the private and public economic
development and agriculture related groups to remedy the economic
condition of the region. The rural nature of the area and its
downward economic trend must be reversed if the area is to become
RC&D Council Activities
Forestry Committee Activities: The council
formed a Forestry Committee in 1996. Since their formation the
committee has sponsored a yearly forest owner's workshop. Topics
such as forest management and the environment, forest skills education,
timber sales contracts, and timber trespass have all been presented
1996 - The Council sponsored a project to
plant American Chestnut trees on public lands throughout
the RC&D area. They have networked with the American Chestnut
Foundation to both plant seedlings and distribute educational
information about the American Chestnut to the general public.
1997 - A woodlot workshop was completed in
co-sponsorship with the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation
District in 1997. It was well attended with over 200 people gaining
educational ideas on care and utilization of their woodlot properties.
1997 - The Council sponsored and conducted a daylong seminar
in December 1997 on the installation of Dry Fire Hydrants for
the rural communities. This session dealt with the benefits, design,
installation, and maintenance of these much-needed infrastructures
1998 - The Lake Plains RC&D was involved
in the Niagara Frontier Forest Owner Workshop on March 21, 1998
at the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Niagara County Education
Center in Lockport, New York. Approximately 300 people attended.
1998 - The Lake Plains RC&D hosted a fall Woodlot Owners
Workshop on October 3, 1998 at the Genesee County Park and Forest
Interpretive Center in Bethany, New York. Many workshops were
held including chain saw safety, wetlands wildlife habitat, and
taxation in relation to woodlot ownership. Approximately 60 people
attended including presenters.
1999 - The Ontario Lake Plains RC&D
helped publicize the following Forestry programs offered through
other New York RC&D Councils: The Greater Adirondack RC&D
Council in association with the US Forest Service and NYSDEC
provides wood product industries with the opportunity to exhibit
and attend the worlds largest wholesale forest products show in
Cologne, Germany. New York's Wood Products Companies on the Internet:
The Sullivan Trail RC&D Council through a NYSDEC Forest Service
grant offered assistance to New York Forest and Wood products
companies through technical assistance and cost sharing for Internet
Web Site development.
Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative
Lake Plains RC&D entered into a contract with the NRCS to provide
Grazing Land Advocates to make contacts with area farmers to promote
grassland farming. In addition to providing two advocates the
Ontario Lake Plains RC&D has sponsored three pasture walks in
1999. A workshop was held in Corfu, New York on March 20, 1998.
There were 25 attendees and a pasture walk was hosted at John
& Linda Cecchini's Stone Barn Farm in Medina on August 28, 1998.
The Advocates have made approximately 300 contacts in 1998/1999.
This program is part of the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative,
to promote the use of grasslands farming through intensive use
of pastures for raising livestock.
Genesee County Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) received a
grant of $5,000 from NY Farms for development of educational materials
for promotion of local products. Lake Plains RC&D Council is actively
supporting this "BUY WNY - LOCAL LABEL INITIATIVE." The second
phase of the initiative will be an Agri-Tourism initiative to
promote local food in restaurants, festivals, farm tours and other
events. Special recognition goes out to Pat LaPoint, Genesee County
CCE for all her good work.
Rural Communities Tree Restoration Project
This project will assist local communities in the re-planting
of trees lost due to the Labor Day storm event on September 7,
1998. This storm caused extensive damage and loss of trees in
Western New York communities.
Greenhouse Hay Drying
Using Solar Energy Chases' Nursery a family operation has
offered to demonstrate how with relatively low cost investments,
it can efficiently and profitably dry hay utilizing its greenhouses.
Hay drying is done during the nursery's off-season (June 1st to
September 15th) when hay production is at its peak. The RC&D Council
is assisting by trying to find funding resources. Financial assistance
is needed to design and install ventilation systems and conduct
evaluations of effectiveness. Regional benefits would be higher
quality hay, better return for farmers, and the natural resource
benefits due to the incentive to grow hay instead of potential
erosive row crops. Special thanks goes out to Selden Chase and
Chase's Nursery for their willingness to put the time and effort
into this project as well as share this idea with others.
The RC&D is providing support to local Envirothon efforts
by supplying educational resources, and developing test questions
and other administrative support.
Springdale Farm - Demonstration Farm
As a member of the Springdale Farm Advisory Group the RC&D Council
is helping to develop a strategic plan to address needs of the
public while also providing a quality education program focused
on agriculture and environmental education.
Science, Mathematics, Agriculture, and Related
Technologies (SMART) Center
A proposed regional year round science education center, focused
to teach all aspects of science education using agriculture and
environment issues as the theme. The SMART Center would be a premier
facility that will be designed as an education center for all
ages. The proposed location for the SMART Center is the Genesee
County Fair Grounds east of Batavia, New York. Martin Culik, Executive
Director of Genesee County CCE is spearheading this effort and
Ontario Lake Plains RC&D is providing help in the planning process.
Watershed Enhancement Projects
The Council is supporting the Village of Lyndonville (Orleans
County, New York) in its efforts to develop a restoration plan
for the Johnson Pond area. The village is concerned that hazardous
substances may have been discharged into the Johnson Creek upstream
of the village. The village wishes to remove the accumulated sediments
and to make improvements to the area. The Council worked on a
proposed project with Monroe County to import stormwater management
methods. The proposed project Dry Basin Conversion to Wetlands
Initiative would convert dry basin stormwater facilities to constructed
wetlands to improve sediment control, slow water flow, improve
habitat for wildlife, and improve aesthetics. A project was co-sponsored
in Monroe County to stabilize stream banks in Linear Park .
The Beauty of the RC&D Program
Environmental problems do not stop at township, county or state
boundaries and that is where the beauty and flexibility of the
RC&D program comes into play. The RC&D program was designed to
handle multi-county partnerships with private individuals, private
companies and public agencies to assemble resources to help correct
environmental problems or any other problem where council members
feel they can help.
The Ontario Lake Plains RC&D Council looks
forward to working together with and supporting member sponsors,
groups, agencies, schools, and individuals to enhance the quality
of life and environment for residents and visitors to the area.
Your support, participation, and interest
in the Ontario Lake Plains RC&D activities would be appreciated.
For further information contact Robert Remillard at the address
show below or call 716-589-5320 ext. 102
ONTARIO LAKE PLAINS RC&D
446 WEST AVENUE, ALBION,
RC&D is a program supported by the
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in its
programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion,
age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status.
(Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with
disabilities who require alternative means for communication of
program information (Braille, large print, audio tape, etc.) should
contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (Voice and TTD).
To file a complaint write USDA, Director; Office of Civil Rights,
Room 326W; Whiten Building; 14th and Independence Avenue, SW;
Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (Voice and TTD).
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.