Western Pennsylvania Conservancy protects more than 6,000 acres; "75th Anniversary Acquisitions" provide access to exceptional natural places
Fri, Feb 1st 2008, 11:03. Filed under News Releases.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) finalized the permanent protection of 6,050 acres in Western Pennsylvania on January 31, 2008. The purchase, called the “75th Anniversary Acquisitions” to commemorate WPC’s 75-year legacy of land protection, includes two parcels that WPC has named the “Southern Clarion River Forest” and “Laurel Hill Creek Forest.” The acquisitions will significantly increase the amount of state forest land available for public use and will ensure the permanent conservation of some of the region’s most valuable wild and scenic lands.
The purchases were made possible through a grant of nearly $8 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and through $4.5 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). As part of the transaction, WPC has transferred ownership of the properties to DCNR Bureau of Forestry, which intends to permit recreational uses such as camping, fishing, hunting and hiking on these lands.
“These purchases continue the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s legacy of protecting our region’s most valuable natural areas. These properties are magnificent, and I am glad that, with the help of our partners, we are able to protect them and share them with the public,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. To date, WPC has conserved nearly half of all land protected by land trusts in the state of Pennsylvania. In December 2007, WPC reorganized its land conservation work under a new position of associate vice president for land conservation and stewardship, to build upon the organization’s strong legacy in conserving land.
Located primarily in Clarion and Somerset counties, the newly protected properties include:
- Laurel Hill Creek Forest
2,300 acres in Somerset County’s scenic Laurel Highlands that were transferred to DCNR to become part of Forbes State Forest.
- Southern Clarion River Forest
3,300 acres, including 1,600 acres of land and 1,700 acres of timber rights, along the Clarion River south of Cooksburg. The land has been transferred to DCNR to become part of Clear Creek State Forest and the timber rights also will be transferred to DCNR.
- Additional parcels totaling 450 acres in Jefferson and Forest counties.
In addition to enhancing recreational opportunities, the WPC acquisitions protect valuable sources of water and safeguard forested areas that are vital to rare or endangered plants and animals.
The Southern Clarion River Forest
“These acquisitions will help us enhance what we treasure in Pennsylvania – our beautiful forests, streams and natural areas,” DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis said. “Adding this piece of Pennsylvania’s great outdoors to our state forest system will mean we are able to protect wildlife habitat, and that future generations will be able to enjoy the land for outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing and hiking.”
DiBerardinis added that when willing sellers offer large tracts of natural areas for sale, it is important to protect these lands to prevent breaking-up of forest land and the disruption this causes for wildlife and the habitat that supports it. These actions also create better outdoor experiences for hunters and other recreational enthusiasts, he said. On these properties, DCNR will make a payment in lieu of taxes to local counties, municipalities and school districts that can be reinvested back into communities.
Prior to yesterday’s closing, WPC discussed the project with community members as well as impacted county and township governments, which contributed their support. “I am very pleased to have played a role in supporting this vital project, which provides clear benefits to the residents of my district and ensures that these beautiful lands will be enjoyed by our community for generations to come,” said Representative Fred McIlhattan, R-Clarion/Armstrong.
Fact sheets, photographs and maps are available upon request.
About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
To date, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has protected nearly 225,000 acres of natural lands in Pennsylvania. Now in its 75th year, Pennsylvania’s first conservancy continues to partner with grassroots organizations to protect land, restore watersheds and save natural habitats.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) preserves Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater®, which was designed in 1935 and entrusted to the Conservancy in 1963 by Edgar Kaufmann jr. A symbol of living in harmony with nature, Fallingwater is open to the public and offers a wide variety of educational programs to its more than 135,000 annual visitors.
Each year, WPC plants and maintains community gardens and greening projects throughout Western Pennsylvania. In 2007, WPC partnered with more than 5,000 volunteers and dozens of community organizations to plant 140 gardens in 19 western Pennsylvania counties.