The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has secured a conservation easement protecting 1,620 acres in Perry County, near Marysville, after a vote by the Duncannon Borough Council last night.
“TNC is proud to play a key role in protecting this beautiful and ecologically important property that is already cherished by people living in the Harrisburg region,” said Bill Kunze, executive director of TNC’s office in Pennsylvania. “Permanent protection of this land also gets us closer to our goal of protecting the entire Kittatinny Ridge, a critical migration corridor for birds and other wildlife.”
TNC will enroll the property in its Working Woodlands program, which engages private landowners in sustainably managing productive forestlands to benefit wildlife and people.
“Over the years, the borough has conducted regular timber harvests in this area to generate revenue,” said Josh Parrish, director of TNC’s Working Woodlands program. “However, invasive and exotic species such as striped maple, mile-a-minute vine and tree of heaven are choking out native trees and other wildlife habitat on the property.”
In response, TNC aims to promote a more diverse, resilient native forest ecosystem that will stand up to these and other threats. Such a forest, sustainably managed and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, will also return more timber revenues over the long-term. One of the first steps towards reaching these goals includes developing a forest management plan that prioritizes healthy wildlife habitat, improved air and water quality, and long-term forest product revenues for the landowner.
“I am thrilled that we were able to partner with The Nature Conservancy to solidify our commitment to the responsible stewardship and maintenance of this important land resource, while gaining part of the capital we will need to stabilize and upgrade our infrastructure,” said Darryl Croutharmel, Duncannon borough council president.
This conservation easement comes on the heels of an acquisition made by TNC a year ago, that led to creation of the 353-acre Cove Mountain Preserve. Together, the properties represent a stronghold within the Kittatinny Ridge, a chain of forested ridgetops that serves as one of the most important wildlife corridors within the northeastern U.S.
The easement also permanently protects a portion of the Sherman’s Creek watershed from future development. All partners involved in securing the easement, including the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), agree that managing this property for a mix of conservation, recreation and sustainable forestry will only improve the quality of water flowing from the landscape and into the Susquehanna River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.
“This most notable achievement goes far beyond benefitting the Perry County region,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “The angler wading the Susquehanna, the boater on the Chesapeake, they both share in the rewards of this tract’s watershed protection. Meanwhile, visitors from afar are welcome to roam this acreage, land protected by our invaluable partner—The Nature Conservancy.”
The property, which boasts locally popular hikes like Hawk Rock Overlook, will remain open to the public for hiking and seasonal hunting. It is also in proximity to the Appalachian Trail (AT), a world-class hiking destination and national treasure.
In addition to making improvements to the trailhead parking lot, TNC plans to develop an eight-mile loop to connect the property’s lower trails to the AT and another trail overlooking the Susquehanna Water Gap. The property will have a lower trail that features an early-1800s sawmill smokestack and path to Sherman’s Creek for kayaking and canoeing.