Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Four Projects Conserve Important Watershed
Lands in Delaware River Basin


The hard work of protecting water quality happens one acre, one stream-reach, one small watershed at a time. This fall, three area land trusts celebrated some hard-fought victories in the Upper Basin. The projects, located in the NJ Highlands, Pocono-Kittatinny, Upper Lehigh and Schuylkill Highlands were funded, in part, through OSI’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund. The newly conserved properties, comprising nearly 670 acres, will protect important headwaters streams, wetlands and recharge areas – all critical for maintaining water quality. Below you’ll find a brief profile, photo and map of each project. Plus the perspective from each of the dealmakers who made these projects happen. For a description of the watershed outcomes likely to be achieved overall by the 25 approved land projection projects, including the 12 projects that have closed to date and the 13 slated to close in the coming year, please see here.


Lubbers Run, NJ Watershed project and map

 Lubbers Run, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey
Hopatcong Borough, Sussex County, New Jersey
New Jersey Highlands Cluster

At the end of September, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey acquired a conservation easement on a 188-acre forested parcel overlooking Lake Hopatcong in the NJ Highlands with help of a $50,000 watershed fund grant. The transaction is the first phase of a larger conservation effort, with OSI providing an additional $450,000 grant toward a second round of easements on several parcels, to protect an additional 2,435 acres in the Lubbers Run Creek.  When the second phase closes next year, the entire project will conserve 8.2 percent of the Lubber’s Run watershed, which is one of the highest quality and most intact watersheds in the NJ Highlands because its concentration of conserved forest, headwaters and low impervious surface. Other funding for the first phase came from the State of New Jersey and the Federal Forest Legacy Program.

“In a highly developed area like northern New Jersey, a project of this size is fairly epic. So when we began this effort, we knew it would be a long haul to conserve over 3,000 acres. I can’t count the number of meetings, site visits and maps we made. Everything Sandy Urgohad to happen all at once and on such a grand scale! The maps we were making were so large that we were struggling to reduce them to a size that the state’s server could even accept. But we knew that we could make this conservation project a reality because we had a committed landowner and the support of public and private funders. The New Jersey Highlands is a very special place to work, and I consider this project to be the major highlight of my entire career in land preservation and am truly honored to play a role in its permanent preservation”.


Quaker Hill NJ Projects and map

Quaker Hill, Natural Lands Trust
Robeson Township, Berks County, PA
Schuylkill Highlands Cluster

In early December, Natural Lands Trust (NLT) acquired the 80-acre tract partly funded by a $145,500 watershed grant. The property is part of a large unprotected forest block in the pristine headwaters of Hay Creek, a state–designated Exceptional Value stream that provides drinking water to the Borough of Birdsboro and Union Township through water intakes two miles downstream from the project. NLT will convey the property to the PA Bureau of Forestry, which will manage the land in a sustainable manner for timber, wildlife and other goals including water resource protection. The project also establishes a beachhead in Hay Creek, where conservation funding has been scarce and landowners have had few economic incentives to preserve their land. By demonstrating landowner interest and the availability of private matching funds, NLT has been able to interest more landowners along the Hay Creek in land preservation. Other funding came from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Federal Highlands Conservation Act.

Jack Stefferud, Natural Lands Trust

“The project has really hit a sweet spot for us. There’s been a lot of ag preservation in Berks County but in the wooded areas of Hay Creek, there just hasn’t been the money or landowner interest to make anything happen. Quaker Hill unlocked the door – the Penn money helped to bring in federal funding and rang a bell for landowners in the area who now know that preservation is a real option instead of only selling just for development. There’s now a groundswell of interest from landowners and many new protection possibilities. Because of our collective efforts to protect the Quaker Hill Property not only are we protecting forest and its clean water but what was once going to be development roads will now be fantastic trails for recreational use, and we’re seeing a sea change in landowners’ attitudes toward conservation as well.”


Bear Creek and Map Delaware projectsBear Creek Addition, Natural Lands Trust
Bear Creek Township, Luzerne County, PA
Pocono and Kittatinny Cluster

Also this month, Natural Lands Trust (NLT) acquired the 162-acre Bear Creek property partially funded by a $103,000 watershed fund grant. Bordering the 1,800-acre Frances E. Walters Reservoir in the headwaters of the Bear Creek in the Upper Lehigh watershed cluster, the property is 98 percent forested and contains important recharge areas. The two tributaries to Bear Creek located on the property are state-classified High Quality Cold Water Fisheries. The property will be added to NLT’s 3,412-acre Bear Creek Preserve and managed to protect water quality, ecology, habitat and recreation such as fishing and hiking. The property was owned by a developer and in danger of being cleared for residential subdivision before NLT began negotiations. Other funding came from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Erin McCormick, Natural Lands Trust “Almost every land conservation project has twists and turns that can lead to sleepless nights. In this case, we encountered some challenges associated with the timing of grant announcements. But in the end - thanks to the landowner and our many partners - we were able to preserve a key piece of forested buffer along the reservoir protecting a spectacular viewshed and providing additional opportunities for fishing and boating access to the reservoir. It’s a wonderful new addition to our Bear Creek Preserve.”


Newswanger Projects Delaware Watershed

Aquashicola Watershed Projects
Newsanger and Zelitsky Parcels
Wildlands Conservancy
Ross & Eldred Townships, Monroe County, PA
Upper Lehigh Cluster

Last week, the Wildlands Conservancy acquired the second of two parcels totaling 240 acres partly funded with $450,000 watershed grant. The tracts, which are located in the Aquashicola watershed, are important for recharge, and one contains important headwaters streams. The parcels will become part of the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge and will be managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service with the goal of maintaining high-quality streams and critical habitat for sensitive aquatic species including bog turtle and brook trout. Wildlands is actively working to protect large blocks of land within the refuge’s 20,000-acre acquisition boundary and to close key unprotected gaps. In addition to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, other funding came from Monroe County.

“Getting successfully to the closing table for Newsanger was truly a team effort between Dawn GorhamWildlands Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and OSI. The project had many ups and downs, especially within the last few days before a mad dash to the closing, but in the end everyone pulled together and made the project a success. The key was, as in many transactions, relationships –between the refuge manager and the landowners, Wildlands and its funders. We trusted in each other to do what was needed to achieve our shared goal of protecting lands along Aquashicola Creek. It’s what makes my work so gratifying.” 

Dawn Gorham, Director of Land Preservation
Wildlands Conservancy








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