Halfmoon Township, Pa. – Sept. 6, 2018 – The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced today the donation of a conservation easement from landowners Dennis and Joan Thomson to protect 377 acres of forestland in Halfmoon Township, Centre County along Bald Eagle Mountain.

A vernal pool on a donated conservation easement in Centre County Easement DonationThis protection safeguards important plant communities and wildlife habitats found within a large 320-acre contiguous forest. This forest area, positioned high on the slopes of Bald Eagle Mountain, is one of the largest areas of remaining untouched forest in Halfmoon Township.

The Thomsons are also placing an agricultural conservation easement on 243 acres of their farmland. That easement, to be held by Centre County Agricultural Land Preservation Board, ensures that their agricultural land continues as a working farm. Funding for the agricultural easement was provided by the Halfmoon Township Open Space Program and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Farmland Preservation Program.

Natives of Wisconsin, the Thomsons moved to Central Pennsylvania in 1970 to work at Penn State University and eventually raise their family. Over a period of 42 years, they added adjacent properties to their now 618-acre Halfmoon Township homestead hoping to reduce threats from development and forest fragmentation in Centre County. For the Thomsons, protecting their forest with a donated easement comes instinctively as they both were raised with a conservation ethic imparted from their parents. Joan grew up on a dairy farm and Dennis’ parents, who were botanists and nature enthusiasts, introduced him to American author and conservationist Aldo Leopold. Dennis says that this donation is not only a gift to the Conservancy, but an investment in nature for the region.

“It was important to us to create a legacy that contributed to the greater conservation good and be a good example for others considering donating land,” he said. “I’m privileged to be on this unique, precious and beautiful spaceship Earth and I’d like to believe I’ll leave a little bit of it in better shape than when I first arrived.”

In addition to forest and farmland, the property is interspersed with meadows and wetlands. The vernal pools, which are temporary areas of water that occur seasonally on land, on this section of the property are part of a complex of pools within the Gatesburg forest landscape. This wetland complex is recognized by the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program as important habitats for distinctive plants, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates that use vernal pools at various stages of their life cycles. Additionally, the surrounding forest landscape supports several rare and threatened species, including eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos), Appalachian cottontail (Sylvilagus obscurus) and golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera).Warriors Mark Run on a donated conservation easement in Centre County

The easement will also protect Warriors Mark Run, a tributary to Spruce Creek which flows into the Little Juniata River, and its headwater streams. This run originates on the property and supports a population of native brook trout.

“This conservation project would not be possible without all of the partners in the region working to ensure this land remains wild and a place for future conservation planning and learning opportunities,” said Joan. “This land has been a big part of our lives, and it is satisfying and special to know it will endure.”

Protecting land via conservation easements, which are permanent deed-restriction agreements tailored to meet specific landowner needs and conservation goals, is not a foreign concept to the Thomsons. Before moving to Pennsylvania, they donated land to The Prairie Enthusiasts, a conservancy in the upper Midwest, which turned their donated land into a public nature center.

“Centre County is a spectacular place, with extensive forested ridges, beautiful farming valleys and wonderful ecological resources. A donation of a conservation easement of this size and significance is a wonderful gift from the Thomson family,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy.

The Conservancy welcomes inquiries from landowners interested in learning more about donating conservation easements or other conservation options. For more information, please contact WPC at 412-288-2777 or info@paconserve.org.


Photos of the property are available for media use courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

High-res and low-res photos: https://we.tl/t-fla9hFsw5w

About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy:

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) enhances the region by protecting and restoring exceptional places. A private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, WPC has helped to establish 10 state parks, conserved more than a quarter million acres of natural lands and protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams. The Conservancy owns and operates Fallingwater, which symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, WPC enriches our region’s cities and towns through 132 community gardens and other green spaces that are planted with the help of about 12,000 volunteers. The work of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is accomplished through the support of more than 10,000 members. For more information, visit WaterLandLife.org or Fallingwater.org.

Media Contact:
Carmen Bray
Director of Communications
412-586-2358 (office)