The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the recent acquisition of 525 acres in the town of North Collins, Erie County, to create the Clear Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
The land offers hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife viewing, and other recreational opportunities and becomes the largest State-owned WMA in Erie County.
Transferred to DEC by the New York State Office of Mental Health, the Clear Lake WMA includes the Clear Lake Reservoir and surrounding scenic property. The 43-acre lake offers wildlife viewing opportunities and provides important habitat for turtles, salamanders, and waterfowl such as Canada geese, wood ducks, and mallards. The lake was constructed in the 1920s for use as a water reservoir for the former Gowanda Psychiatric Center and was later used by the Collins Correctional Facility.
An ideal location for wildlife habitat, the parcel’s diverse landscape includes mature forest, wetlands, brushland, and open fields that support a variety of species including ruffed grouse, wild turkey, woodcock, white-tailed deer, beaver, muskrat, raccoon, red and gray fox, and migratory songbirds.
Clear Lake WMA will be managed by DEC Region 9’s Bureau of Wildlife with the primary goal of preserving and enhancing the property’s wildlife habitat and providing active wildlife-dependent recreation. In addition, non-wildlife dependent recreational activities such as hiking, kayaking, and canoeing are also allowed as long as these activities do not impede or interfere with the primary wildlife management usage goals of the area. Prohibited activities at Clear Lake WMA include swimming, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, target shooting, or the use of motorized boats, boat trailers, ATVs, or snowmobiles. The public should check on-site signage for authorized activities when visiting.
Clear Lake WMA can be accessed on the north side of Genesee Road in North Collins, west of Route 75. DEC recently installed two parking areas to improve public access to the site. The parking area located on the lake’s east side is designated for use by visitors hand-launching small boats, kayaks, or canoes. The use of trailers is not allowed.
WMAs are lands owned by New York State under the control and management of DEC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. These lands are acquired primarily for wildlife reproduction and survival, as well as providing for wildlife-based recreational opportunities. WMAs provide exceptional areas for the public to interact with a wide variety of wildlife species. There are 123 WMAs across the state, comprising approximately 235,000 acres.
Since the early 1900s, the WMA program established permanent public access to lands in New York State for the conservation and promotion of its fish and wildlife resources. Clear Lake WMA will be maintained by federal funding from the Pittman Robertson Act, now known as Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration, which apportions revenues generated from the excise taxes on the sale of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment to state wildlife agencies for conservation efforts and hunter education programs.
Maps and additional information about Clear Lake WMA can be found on DEC’s website.
Photo of Clear Lake WMA courtesy DEC.