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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.



Tompkins County Agricultural District 1 Public Review 

Updates to Agricultural District 1 were made in 2020.

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

Agricultural District 1, the eastern half of Tompkins County within Tompkins County Agricultural District #1 covering portions of the Towns of Lansing, Groton, Dryden, Caroline, Ithaca, and Danby, is undergoing review. 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.  


Tompkins County Conservation Strategy (2012)

The Tompkins County Conservation Strategy presents eleven specific strategies to conserve critical identified resources in the County over a ten 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.


Capital Reserve Fund

The purpose of the Capital Reserve Fund for Natural, Scenic, and Recreational Resource Protection is for Tompkins County to work in partnership with other levels of government and private organizations to:

  • protect and preserve the natural, scenic, and recreational resources found in the Agricultural Resource Focus Areas and Natural Resource Focus Areas identified in the Comprehensive Plan;
  • preserve and develop recreational trail corridors that cross municipal borders; and
  • develop outdoor recreation facilities, within the focus areas, that are intended to serve all county residents.

As of March 2016, the Fund has been utilized to permanently protect over 830 acres in five different municipalities.

For information about the Fund's guidelines, see here.

Purchase of Development Rights (PDR)

Decorative picture of farm fieldTompkins County, in close cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension and Town 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. Tompkins County has worked with five different farmers in two towns to leverage over $3 million to permanently protect over 2,200 acres of high priority local farmland. To learn more about the County's PDR program, see here.

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 fourteen 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)

Vital Communities Toolbox