Southwest NY has a rich base of natural resources. These resources shaped the early settlement and development of the region. These resources have been categorized below and discussed in more depth.
Hands down this area has some of the best hardwood timber in the world. Early settlers recognized the value of the timber lands and furniture, particle board, and dimension lumber businesses resulted. This industry is still prominent in the region today.
There are thousands of acres of mature timber lands throughout the area. Much of the timber is hardwood, with some softwood species mixed in. The most prominent hardwood trees are several species of Maple, Red & White Oak, Beech, Black Cherry, Hickory, and Ash. For softwoods the Soft Maple species, Willow, Hemlock, and Poplar are most common. Other species that can be found in the area include Black Gum, Sycamore, Black Walnut, Ironwood, Spruce and Pine plantations, and other less common species. The lumber from this timber is often of the highest quality. Veneer grade Cherry, Maple, and Oak can be found throughout the entire area with diameters exceeding 48” in some cases.
While it is not commonly thought of as a natural resource, quality agricultural land is exactly that. Several types of farming can be found in Southwest NY, these vary by the specific area you are in.
Along the Lake Erie plain the Lake moderates the climate. With cooler temperatures in the summer and warmer in the winter, the area is ideal for fruit farming. Grapes are the most common, but cherries, peaches, blueberries, and other tree fruits can be found. The Lake plain is generally flat with gentle rolling hills, ideal for this type of agriculture.
Above the Lake plain, the farming turns to animals and row crops. Corn and soybeans are the two most popular row crops. Green beans, cabbage, and tomatoes are also common. Hay crops such as clover, alfalfa, and buckwheat are used in animal operations. Oats and wheat are grown on a smaller scale. The wide valleys of the area boast fertile, gravel-laden soil that is ideal for farming. New York State consistently ranks in the top five dairy producers in the country. The Southwest NY area is one of the tops in the state for dairy farming.
Because of the successful farming industry, agri-business has become a large part of the Southwest NY economy. Businesses that utilize the fruit and dairy products are most common.
Petroleum and Natural Gas
With the discovery of oil in Southwest NY, and having the first natural gas well in the world, the petroleum industry has always had a presence in the area. While oil was not that plentiful, many producing wells were built. Today most of those wells are inactive. Natural gas is a bit of a different story. Thousands of wells, across most of the region were built and many are still in production today. All wells built to date are considered shallow wells. As well drilling technology progresses and the cost to go deeper lessens; the area is predicted to see a resurgence in this industry.
Having the Great Lakes water system in the region has gone a long way to ensure adequate potable water supplies into the future. While only a small portion of the population actually gets their water from Lake Erie, there is a tremendous potential for a greatly increased consumption. However the water supply in Southwest NY is so plentiful it is less costly to draw from other sources that are closer to the individual communities. Rivers, lakes, and springs that prove to be excellent sources of water are found in every corner of the region. In fact, groundwater is the most commonly used source for potable water. The climate of the area creates an abundance of fresh groundwater.
Clearly the most common type of mining in Southwest NY is gravel mining. Most of this gravel is used in region, though some is exported via rail because of its quality. Gravel deposits are located throughout the region and active pit mines can be seen in many locations. Some of the deposits support an active mine for nearly 50 years, while others are shorter lived.
Outside of gravel mining, salt mines can be found on a limited basis in specific portions of the area. Similarly, limestone deposits are mined in selected areas as well.