ClearWater Conservancy Receives DCNR Grant To Protect Galbraith Gap Watershed
ClearWater Conservancy has been awarded a $350,000 state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant for the purchase and permanent conservation of 152 acres of land in the Galbraith Gap area of Harris Township, Centre County.
“We are very pleased to receive this grant because it provides us with half of the necessary funding to purchase the property,” said ClearWater’s conservation biologist Katie Ombalski. “Permanently conserving this property will protect important wildlife habitat, water quality and a locally treasured recreational gateway for future generations.”
ClearWater has an agreement to buy the Tussey Mountain property, owned by Chip Aikens of Bellefonte, for $685,440. With closing costs and related expenses, the total cost of acquisition is approximately $706,000. Once the purchase is complete, ClearWater Conservancy will convey the property to DCNR Bureau of Forestry for incorporation into the adjacent Rothrock State Forest.
The Community Conservation Partnerships Program grant is the third grant ClearWater has received for the purchase. A National Fish and Wildlife Federation grant for $94,000 and a $9,000 Huplits Trust grant distributed by the Sierra Club were previously awarded. ClearWater plans to raise the rest of the funds needed through other means, including public fundraising.
The purchase of Aikens’ property will benefit residents and visitors to Centre County and the native flora and fauna inhabiting the sensitive habitats of Galbraith Gap.
The gap serves as the main recreational gateway to Rothrock State Forest for hikers, birdwatchers, mountain bikers, hunters and cross country skiers. Conservation of the Aikens parcel will allow the expansion of existing trail systems and provide new and exciting recreational opportunities within a few minutes of State College and its surrounding communities.
The Aikens tract is within the Greater Tussey Mountain and Stone Mountain Important Bird Areas and Central Mountains Important Mammal Area. Conservation of the property will also buffer the adjacent Shingletown Gap Biological Diversity Area.
The 2,400- foot long unnamed tributary to Galbraith Gap Run coursing through the center of Aikens’ land will be fully protected, as will the eastern hemlocks that cool the water of the tributary with their shade before it reaches Galbraith Gap Run, making it possible for native brook trout to thrive there.
Galbraith Gap Run is one of only five remaining in the Spring Creek Watershed with a reproducing wild brook trout population. Threatened by the woody adelgid, an insect transplanted from Asia which feeds on hemlocks and can kill them, the hemlocks in Galbraith Gap will be overseen and managed by professional foresters once the land is transferred to DCNR.
The parcel is home to many wildlife species of interest, some of which are on the decline. Birds listed on the State Wildlife Action Plan that can be found on Aikens’ property include Acadian flycatcher, Louisiana waterthrush, worm-eating warbler, blue-headed vireo, wood, thrush and scarlet tanager. It is a known foraging habitat and potential critical habitat for timber rattlesnake and likely foraging and breeding habitat for eastern small-footed bats and northern long-eared bats.
ClearWater Conservancy's Land Conservation Program seeks to balance the rapid growth of central Pennsylvania with the conservation of important ecological, cultural, and historic places. We work with landowners and managers to determine appropriate conservation methods, including land management recommendations, conservation easements, and land acquisition.
To make a monetary donation to the project, please contact ClearWater Conservancy at 814-237-0400.
For more information about the Galbraith Gap land acquisition, visit the ClearWater Conservancy website.
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