Feature - Western Pennsylvania Land: A Legacy for Future Generations
In its first 75 years, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy left an important legacy for Western Pennsylvania by permanently protecting some of our most cherished natural places.
In January 2008, WPC heralded its next 75 years with a set of land acquisitions that are the largest in a decade. The 75th Anniversary Acquisitions include several parcels in five counties and permanently protecting 11,300 acres.
The purchases were made possible through a $14 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and $6.5 million from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
They reflect the organization’s steadfast commitment to land conservation – and our belief that this work is more critical than ever in an era confronted by the challenges of poorly planned development and habitat loss for native plants and animals.
The purchases were completed by WPC’s Land Conservation and Stewardship team, which was formed under a new associate vice president, Greg Socha, in late 2007 to focus exclusively on land conservation.
A central operation of WPC since the organization’s founding, land conservation activities have enabled WPC to protect nearly 225,000 acres of natural lands throughout Western Pennsylvania. Many of these acquisitions have become parks, public forests and gamelands, set aside for the enjoyment of people and the protection of natural resources, for all time.
The Land Conservation and Stewardship team is focused on maximizing WPC’s impact in this area – to help safeguard our drinking water sources, provide havens for endangered wildlife, and provide beautiful recreational areas for those who visit the region or call it home.
The Spring issue of Conserve Magazine focuses on WPCs work in land conservation – the latest acquisitions, the most noteworthy projects over the years, and the critical roles that volunteers and partners play in the organization’s success.
Southern Clarion River/Laurel Hill Creek
From the Seneca Point overlook, the
Overhead, a bald eagle may even make a star appearance. The river below is home to trout and smallmouth bass, a boon to anglers and a reflection of the health of this treasured waterway.
This 3,300-acre stretch of secluded land along the
Also purchased in the first phase of the 75th Anniversary Acquisitions is the
After the purchase, WPC transferred the majority of acres it protected in this first phase of the 75th Anniversary Acquisitions to The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry. The Southern Clarion River Forest became a part of
The purchases are also expected to result in economic benefits – both through boosts to local tourism industries and through increased payments to impacted counties and townships, due to legislatively increased payments in lieu of taxes on lands owned by the Commonwealth.
In Elk and
This forest, characterized by steep slopes that descend from a high plateau, serves as home to elk, bears, turkey and deer. A network of streams there feeds into the Bennett Branch, an important tributary of Sinnemahoning Creek that has been impacted by acid mine drainage. Once a favorite hunting and recreation area, this property has been closed to the public for more than a decade.
WPC acquired this parcel in February 2008 in the second phase of its 75th Anniversary Acquisitions and named it the
“We have the opportunity to conserve this great forest and play a role in improving the watershed in order to protect a complete system,” said Greg Socha, WPC’s associate vice president of land conservation and stewardship.
“We’ve been involved in efforts to restore the Bennett Branch watershed for several years. As a result of the purchase of
The majority of acres purchased by WPC in this second phase of the 75th Anniversary Acquisitions will be transferred to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry to become part of Moshannon State Forest. DCNR intends to permit a variety of recreational activities there, including hiking, camping and hunting.
In addition, an 80-acre parcel in Clearfield County will be transferred from the owner to the Department of Environmental Protection, which will build an acid mine drainage treatment plant to improve the Bennett Branch Creek.
This second phase of WPC’s 75th Anniversary Acquisitions is expected to result in economic benefits to area counties and townships, due to increases in area tourism and to legislatively increased payments in lieu of taxes on state lands.
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