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Planning - Natural Features

Natural Resources and Agriculture

Conservation Strategy ♦ Programs ♦ Plans and Studies ♦ Data, Maps, and Surveys ♦ Tools, Links, and Resources

The Natural Resources Chapter (11.1 MB) of the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan states that

Tompkins County should be a place where natural features and working rural landscapes are preserved and enhanced.

It is the policy of Tompkins County to:Decorative picture of waterfall

  • Preserve natural features and ecosystems, especially within the Natural Features Focus Areas.
  • Protect farmland within the Agricultural Resource Focus Areas for agricultural use.
  • Reduce the adverse impacts to native species and ecosystems caused by invasive organisms and climate change.
  • Promote best management practices that protect natural resources and productive working lands.

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Tompkins County Agricultural Districts

Tompkins County is concluding the 8-year  review of NYS Certified Agricultural District #2, including land in the Towns of Newfield, Enfield, Ulysses, Ithaca and parts of Danby (approximately 67,100 acres total). The anniversary date for Agricultural District #2 is June 7, 2024. The Tompkins County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB) has worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension to prepare the Agricultural District 2 2024 8-Year Review Draft Report that includes a map of the proposed changes to the District and a list of the parcels recommended for removal and addition to the District. The public may provide written comments on proposed changes to the District to the Tompkins County Legislature at 121 East Court Street, Ithaca, NY 14850 or via email until February 20, 2024. Comments may also be made at the Public Hearing for Public Comment on Proposed Changes to Agricultural District #2 on February 20th, 2024 at the 5:30pm meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature in person or via Zoom. If members of the public are interested in speaking at the meeting via Zoom, please contact the County Clerk at least 24-hours in advance of the meeting. A Zoom link will be provided upon request.

Tompkins County has two Agricultural Districts. Agricultural District 1, which generally runs through the municipalities on the East side of Cayuga Lake, and Agricultural District 2, which runs through municipalities on the East side of Cayuga Lake.

2020 Map of Tompkins County Agricultural Districts

Updates to Agricultural District 1 were made in 2020

Summary of 2020 Updates to Tompkins County Agricultural District 1 (East Side of Lake)

Consistent with NYS Agriculture & Markets Law Article 25AA section 303-a, the County Legislative body must conduct a review of the District every 8 years after District creation and every eight years thereafter. Property owners can apply annually to have property considered for inclusion into the Agricultural Districts. Removals from the District can only occur during the 8 year updates.

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Tompkins County Conservation Strategy (2012)

The Tompkins County Conservation Strategy presents 11 specific strategies to conserve critical identified resources in the County over a 10-year period. This strategy is based on the recommendations of the Tompkins County Conservation Plan, which includes analysis, findings and recommendations for both natural and agricultural resources. Other agency and community partners’ plans were also considered in the development of this strategy. The Tompkins County Conservation Strategy recognizes that protection of Tompkins County’s natural and agricultural heritage requires coordination with agency and community partners and collaboration with willing and interested landowners in the County. The final Conservation Strategy was endorsed by the Tompkins County Legislature October 2, 2012.


Programs

Natural Infrastructure Capital Program

The Natural Infrastructure Capital Program provides funding to protect natural systems that can help mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. At this time, the focus is on: 1) mitigating the potential for downstream flooding and sedimentation, and 2) establishing important migratory corridors to enable plant and animal species to be more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Have a project for the Natural Infrastructure Capital Program? Please submit the program application for consideration. 

Purchase of Development Rights (PDR)

Decorative picture of farm fieldPurchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs pay farmers who voluntarily commit to protecting their farmland from development through agricultural conservation easements. Funding pays the farmer the appraised difference between the “development value” of the land and the “agricultural value” of the land. When a farmer enters into a conservation easement, certain development rights are removed though the farmer retains ownership and agricultural use of land. Farmers, municipalities, and conservation partners, like land trusts, work together to establish and implement these projects. Municipalities and conservation partners annually monitor to ensure easement conditions are met. These programs can provide landowners with capital that can help enhance the economic viability of their farm operations or help transition farm ownership while also protecting the long-term legacy and environmental assets of the farm.

Tompkins County, in close cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Finger Lakes Land Trust, and municipal governments, works with farmers to access New York State's PDR program. The state's program is called the Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Program and is administered through the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. It is a highly competitive statewide program that typically has one award cycle every other year. For more information, email the County Planning & Sustainability Department


Plans and Studies

Tompkins County Habitat Connectivity Strategy (2018)

Tompkins County Conservation Plan Part I: A Strategic Approach to Natural Resource Stewardship (4.1 MB) (2007)

Tompkins County Conservation Plan Part II: A Strategic Approach to Agricultural Resource Stewardship (6.8 MB) (2010)

Tompkins County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan (22.2 MB) (2015)

Tompkins County Forest Management Plan (2007)

Management Plan (29.7 MB)

Management Plan Appendices (6.0 MB)


Data, Maps, and Surveys

Natural Features Focus Areas. Each of the 14 Natural Features Focus Areas included in the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan has an individual plan that provides detailed information about the unique characteristics of the area and outlines a tailored approach to implementation.

Tompkins County Scenic Resources Inventory (2007)          Report (11.8 MB)          Interactive Map

Natural Resources Inventory

Unique Natural Areas of Tompkins County

Tompkins County Agricultural Districts Map (2012)


Tools, Links, and Resources

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Tompkins County Environmental Management Council

Tompkins County Protecting Our Scenic Resources (4.2 MB) (2010)