Western Pennsylvania Conservancy protects more than 5,300 acres in second phase of its 75th Anniversary Acquisitions
Wed, Feb 6th 2008, 11:31. Filed under News Releases.
Two phases of 75th Anniversary Acquisitions combined are WPC’s largest in a decade
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) has acquired and permanently protected 5,340 acres of scenic hardwood forest in Clearfield and Elk counties in the second phase of its 75th Anniversary Acquisitions. This land, which WPC has named “Bennett Branch Forest,” was closed to the public and now will be open for recreational use. This acquisition adds to an uninterrupted landscape of more than 200,000 acres in an area prized for its beauty, its value to plants and animals and the importance of its watershed.
The Bennett Branch Forest
The project was made possible through a $6 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and through $2 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). WPC will transfer ownership of 3,870 acres of the Bennett Branch Forest properties to DCNR Bureau of Forestry to become a permanent addition to Moshannon State Forest. WPC has retained ownership of 1,470 acres in Elk County, where it will manage the forest resources and carry out environmental clean-up projects.
The newly conserved land provides public access to a peaceful and remote wilderness area and contributes to large, uninterrupted tracts of forestland that are home to animals such as bobcats, bears, and birds including warblers and scarlet tanagers. WPC also plans to carry out improvement projects on the property that will help to restore the Bennett Branch watershed, an important tributary of Sinnemahoning Creek that has been impacted by acid mine drainage.
“We envision a Bennett Branch watershed that one day will be as clean and healthy as the upper Clarion River, a magnificent, restored waterway that was once nearly devoid of life due to impacts from pollution,” said WPC Board Chairman Mike Boyle. “The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has been working with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Protection to improve the Bennett Branch and Sinnemahoning Creek, and this acquisition enables us to make a substantial impact more quickly.”
“The protection of these lands creates a better experience for hunters and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts,” said DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. “It’s important that we protect these large tracts of land offered by willing sellers to prevent breaking up forest land, and the disruption that causes for wildlife.”
On the lands that will be transferred to DCNR, a payment in lieu of taxes will be made to local counties, municipalities and school districts that can be reinvested back into communities.
With the purchase of Bennett Branch Forest, WPC’s 75th Anniversary Acquisitions now involve 11,300 acres. On Feb. 1, WPC announced it protected 6,050 acres in Clarion, Jefferson, Somerset and Forest counties as part of the first phase of these purchases. Combined, the first and second phases of the 75th Anniversary Acquisitions are WPC’s largest in a decade.
“When you add Bennett Branch Forest to the first parts of the 75th Anniversary Acquisitions – the vistas protected last week along the Clarion River near Seneca Point, and the 2,300 acres protected last week in the Laurel Highlands – the result is substantial additions of conserved lands for our region,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
In a related transaction, an 80-acre parcel in Clearfield County will be transferred from the owner to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which will build an acid mine drainage treatment plant to improve the Bennett Branch.
The 75th Anniversary Acquisitions build on and commemorate WPC’s 75-year legacy of protecting Western Pennsylvania’s most important natural places. The Conservancy’s efforts resulted in the founding of six state parks: Ohiopyle, Laurel Ridge, Erie Bluffs, Moraine State Park, McConnells Mill and Oil Creek.
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.