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Necklace of green' encircles local lands

Save the County is a private, not-for-profit land trust that focuses on acquiring and preserving important natural lands in Onondaga and surrounding counties. These lands can then be used for educational purposes, scientific analysis, biological conservation and passive recreational use.

"The organization became incorporated in 1972 but began to form a couple years prior through Onondaga botanical society and other concerned people," said Jeff Devine, executive director.

"It basically formed around protection of our first property, Baltimore Woods [in Marcellus] which was acquired in 1973 with funds from the Nature Conservancy," Devine said.

The land trust was originally created as a fundraising organization to pay off the money that was put up by the Nature Conservancy. Volunteers participated in the walk to save the county, which was its first fundraising walk and the organization grew from there.

"That's how [STC] got its name," Devine said.

STC now owns more than 2,000 acres and 42 properties in Onondaga County, with some in Oswego County as well. The "Necklace of Green" -- as STC calls it -- is enhanced and continues to thrive because of groups and individuals who donate parcels of land to the organization.

"We've been quietly working to protect land for more than 35 years," Devine said.

STC generally works with private land owners although they have worked with developers and private businesses, too. Most properties are acquired through donation.

"People who want to protect family lands, that had a property that's very special to them and they want to see that it's permanently protected and kept in a natural state -- that's how we've acquired the bulk of our properties," Devine said.

Properties are also obtained through market sale.

There are currently 17 volunteer board members with Devine being the one paid employee and he works part-time.

"It's a very lean, grassroots organization," Devine said. "We don't have any real infrastructure other than our properties. We don't have a physical office. I operate out of my home."

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