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Coleman Sanctuary: A Refuge for Free-Living Animals in Upstate New York

In a letter to the editor on Dec. 5, 1940, Edith Coleman wrote, “It had always been our dream to preserve our farm as a wildlife sanctuary. We have faithfully tried to protect it and to encourage our hard-pressed and vanishing friends of the field and forest to come and find sanctuary here.” Coleman entrusted this vision to FoA in 1979, with her bequest of the Lyman C. Coleman sanctuary, named after her father.

The pristine, 98-acre patchwork of wooded ridges, dense forest, apple orchard, wild grape vines and goldenrod fields has been set aside for indigenous animals and wild plants to live freely, without disturbance from humans. The wildlife must be “left wild,” according to Coleman’s wishes. This includes native deer, mice, rabbits, woodchucks, bluebirds, hawks, owls, eagles, deer, raccoons, bear, foxes, porcupines, opossum, coyotes and squirrels. No hunting, trapping or fishing is allowed.

The Lyman C. Coleman sanctuary will never be developed for human use, although open space is disappearing rapidly elsewhere. On May 16, 2007, New York state senator Neil Breslin, D-Albany, in launching the “Green Apple” environmental initiative,” said the state loses an average of 174 acres a day to development. "Between 1982 and 1997, central New York lost more than 100,000 acres of forests and farmland to development. Overall, he added, 425,000 acres of upstate land has been converted for commercial use.” Breslin cited a 2003 Cornell University study that reported a 30 percent increase in total developed land in New York in the fifteen years from 1982-1997.

This development threatens the survival of non-human animals. Habitat loss tops every list of why animals have become extinct or are in danger of becoming extinct. For example, the majestic bald eagles that ride the thermals over the canopy of sugar maples and white pines on the Coleman sanctuary are currently listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

To protect other inhabitants with whom we share the earth, we need to set aside havens that are off-limits to humans. Edith Coleman, a passionate, lifelong wildlife advocate who died at Nov. 27, 1986, at age 93, provided such a shelter, where free-living animals and birds can flourish undisturbed by humans. FoA is committed to preserving her legacy at the Lyman C. Coleman sanctuary and carrying it forward.