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Berks County Conservancy
Oley Hills - Gehman Property
Pike and Rockland Townships, Berks County, PA
OSI has approved a $38,200 grant to the Berks County Conservancy for the transaction costs associated with the acquisition of a conservation easement on the single largest unprotected forested private property in the Oley Hills region of Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill Highlands. Encompassing over 27,000 acres, the Oley Hills is one of the largest undisturbed forested areas in Berks County. Widely recognized in federal, state, and county conservation plans, Oley Hills has been designated a Critical Treasure by the Highlands Coalition. The region is Berks County's most pristine watershed area, forming the headwaters of six state-designated “Exceptional Value” streams.
Protection of the 170-acre property will safeguard the headwaters of Upper Saucony Creek, a tributary to Maiden Creek which supplies drinking water to the Borough of Kutztown and the City of Reading. The property adjoins a previously preserved 256-acre tract and significantly contributes to a growing network of property in the region protected by easements, currently totaling 1,555 acres. The forested uplands of Welsh Mountain help to recharge groundwater and headwater streams which feed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed which protects the source of drinking water for 14 million people in Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania,
In addition to the OSI grant, Berks County Conservancy has secured acquisition funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) through the 2008 federal Highlands Conservation Act and the Pennsylvania Division of Conservation and Natural Resources (PADCNR).
Lancaster County Conservancy
Forestlands Welsh Mountain Preserve
East Earl and Salisbury Townships, Lancaster County, PA
In May 2011, the Lancaster County Conservancy (LCC) permanently protected 408 acres of undisturbed forest on Welsh Mountain with a $250,000 grant to help with the purchase. Rising over 1,000 feet in eastern Lancaster County and western Chester County, the Welsh Mountain ridge contains the second largest contiguous forest in Lancaster County and provides scenic views of the highly productive farmland in the valleys below. The waterways of Welsh Mountain feed Chesapeake Bay, the country’s largest estuary. The region has been identified as a “High Significance Area” by the Natural Heritage Inventory of Lancaster County.
The property provides habitat for a variety of rare plants and animals, including deep forest breeding grounds for neo-tropical migratory songbirds. The property also contains the groundwater recharge for a section of the headwaters of Mill Creek and a variety of vernal ponds. In addition, the acquisition will offer public access through what will become the Welsh Mountain Preserve.
To date, they have created an assemblage of 1,179 acres of contiguous open space. All phases of the Welsh Mountain Preserve project have been supported with multiple grants from the state and the county; East Earl and Caernarvon Townships and through grants and donations from individuals and foundations.
Lancaster Farmland Trust,
Agricultural Easements on Lancaster County Farms
With a $234,175 loan from OSI, the Lancaster Farmland Trust (LFT) will acquire agricultural easements on five farms, permanently protecting 242 acres in the northeastern Lancaster County farm belt near Welsh Mountain. To help LFT leverage additional private contributions to the project, up to 50 percent of the loan can convert to a grant as funding-raising targets are met.
LFT works primarily with traditional Amish and Mennonite farmers and has preserved 362 farms encompassing almost 23,000 acres of farmland in Lancaster County. Lancaster County farmers grow and raise food for over 26 million people each year, more than any other county in Pennsylvania. Ensuring that this food supply remains accessible and available requires a deliberate effort to protect the farmland. Lancaster County farmland also plays a key role in the health of local and regional watersheds. Water flowing from the forests of the Highlands and the headwaters of Welsh Mountain pass through these agricultural lands before making their way to the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. Every acre of undeveloped farmland can provide 400,000 gallons of groundwater recharge each year.
Protection of these farms will significantly expand the amount of preserved agricultural land within LFT’s “Strategic Square,” an area of eastern Lancaster County designated as a priority for preservation for its rich, productive soil, development pressures and concentration of Amish farms. The five properties are within a two-mile radius of over 40 preserved farms. In addition, three of the properties form a contiguous block of farmland that is tucked into the hillside of the Welsh Mountain, creating protected transition area from the wooded landscape of the proposed Welsh Mountain Preserve to farmland on the south side of the mountain.
Montgomery County Lands Trust
Unami Hills Addition
Upper Salford and Marlborough Townships, Montgomery County, PA
OSI approved a grant for $150,000 to the Montgomery County Lands Trust (MCLT) to acquire an 81-acre property in the Unami Hills. Characterized by steep forested slopes, dramatic diabase boulders, streams, floodplains and wetlands, the Unami Hills is a 16,000-acre block of contiguous woodland that is a focus area of the Bayshore-Highlands Fund. The area provides breeding habitat for as many as 176 neotropical migrant birds, including at least 30 Species of Concern, and has been designated Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Audubon Society.
This site has been a top conservation priority for years. In 2001, the Unami Creek Valleys Landscape Conservation Plan designated the property as a “critical parcel” for habitat conservation. The property includes portions of two high quality streams, the Unami Creek and the Ridge Valley Creek, which converge on the property. MCLT and a number of other public and private partner organizations are working to create greenways along these streams. The property also has potential to become a future trailhead for the 19-mile Perkiomen Trail, part of a major regional trail network with 400,000 annual users that passes about one mile to the south of the tract.
In addition to its conservation significance, the property includes the Daniel Heister House, a historic house built in 1757. MCLT plans to subdivide off the 3 acres that contain the house to be used for historic purposes. The remaining 78 acres of the property will be transferred to Natural Lands Trust (NLT), which will hold title, manage the property as a private NLT preserve with public access, and provide stewardship.
In addition to OSI funding, MCLT has secured funding for the Rogers acquisition from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Division of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and private fundraising.
The Natural Lands Trust
Burden Hill Preserve Addition
Quinton Township, Salem County, NJ
OSI approved a grant for $20,000 to The Natural Lands Trust (NLT) to cover transaction costs for the acquisition 50 acres in Quinton Township that will increase NLT’s Burden Hill Preserve to 791 acres. The site is representative of the Burden Hill forest, a 14,000-acre forested wetland landscape in Salem County. New Jersey’s Wildlife Action Plan identifies the Burden Hill Forest as a conservation priority in the Delaware Bayshore because of its high quality interior forests and wetlands. Studies funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation have verified numerous rare species in this area including large populations of federally listed Swamp Pink and State-endangered Allegheny Chinquapin. Burden Hill is also home to state-listed wildlife including reptiles and amphibians, red-headed woodpeckers, the state-threatened barred owl and some of the state’s largest populations of nesting red-shouldered hawks. At least two vernal ponds – locally known as spungs – are located on the property.
Additional funding for the project has been secured a nonprofit grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Green Acres Program. In addition, the conservation-minded landowner is making a charitable donation. Notably, the landowner will retain a seven-acre parcel that includes his home and an agricultural field, along with lifetime deer and turkey bow-hunting rights on the protected parcel, Retention of hunting rights is important to landowners in the Bayshore regional and this project represents and innovative model which may increase interest of local landowners in entering into land conservation.
Natural Lands Trust
Sheppard’s Mill Girl Scout Camp
Greenwich and Hopewell Townships, Cumberland County, NJ
The Natural Lands Trust (NLT) has also been approved for a second grant from OSI. A grant of $235,000 has been awarded for the preservation of the 405-acre Sheppard’s Mill Girl Scout Camp located in Greenwich and Hopewell Townships, Cumberland County. The property, located in the Cohansey River watershed, is mostly wooded and includes a 52-acre impoundment lake. The lake provides an important foraging and roosting area for bald eagles in the Cohansey watershed. The lake and the surrounding woodlands also provide critical habitat for river otters and other rare wildlife, including the state-listed barred owl and marbled salamander. The property is covered by diverse coastal plain forest including oak/pine woodlands, American holly and areas of Atlantic white cedar with a native understory of mountain laurel, high and low-bush blueberry, sweet pepperbush, sweet bay magnolia and other species.
NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Action Plan cites the area as a conservation zone in the Delaware Bayshore’s landscape region for its importance to southern New Jersey’s forest-interior wildlife populations and makes protection of the forests, wetlands and water quality there a primary plan goal. The property itself is a priority for protection in Cumberland County’s Open Space Plan.
Once it is acquired, the property will be transferred to NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife to become an addition to the 819-acre Cohansey River Wildlife Management Area. Preservation as public open space will facilitate a variety of recreational uses: hunting, fishing, boating, swimming for township residents in the beach area and recreational hiking and bird-watching. The property has an existing trail system and would be open to public for hunting, fishing and a variety of passive uses. Additionally, a six-acre portion of the property is to be transferred to Greenwich Township for a swimming beach, subject to an NLT conservation easement.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Hopewell Township, Cumberland County, NJ
OSI approved a grant for $57,600 to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) to acquire an agricultural easement on the 48-acre Adamucci Farm in Hopewell Township Cumberland County. The Adamucci farm is located on an elevated bluff overlooking a tidal marsh less than a quarter-mile from the Cohansey River. The properly lies in a scenic area of the north shore of the Cohansey known as Dutch Neck which includes an assemblage of 20 high quality farms and will become part a greenway along the Cohansey. The Adamucci farm is a highly visible property protecting the undeveloped view shed from the Cohansey River. It is part of a landscape mosaic of farms and woodlands that along the river which provides wildlife habitat for bald eagles, osprey, and state-listed grassland birds, migratory shorebirds and other wildlife. Other preserved open space in the project area includes the Cohansey River Wildlife Management Area and lands associated with the PSEG Estuary Enhancement Program.
NJCF has received additional funding required for preservation of the Adamucci Farm through a federal Farm and Ranchland Preservation Program (FRPP) grant and County of Cumberland farmland preservation funds obtained from State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC). OSI funding thorough the Bayshore-Highlands Fund helped leverage the Cumberland County share which will allow Cumberland County to preserve other additional farms in the area.
The Nature Conservancy
Diocese of Camden Project Description
City of Vineland, Cumberland County, NJ
OSI approved a grant for $200,000 to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to acquire two adjoining parcels totaling 318.4 acres from the Diocese of Camden. The properties will complete a three-phase purchase of land from the Diocese by TNC that will result in the protection of 492 contiguous acres. The Diocese properties will help connect two arms of the state’s 25,000-acre Peaslee Wildlife Management Area. The project will also build upon nearly 5,000 acres of existing TNC preserves in the Maurice River system, including the 3,672-acre Manumuskin River Preserve further downstream. The Manumuskin watershed lies within TNC’s Cumberland Forest Priority Conservation Area characterized by large, intact oak-pine and white cedar forest bordering working farmland and small rural communities.
This assemblage of forested parcels acquired by TNC protects the headwaters of the Manumuskin River, a tributary to the Maurice River, a federally designated Wild and Scenic River and one of the most pristine freshwater systems in the state. The project directly protects forested freshwater wetlands, vernal ponds and forested uplands comprising headwaters of the Bears Head Branch tributary of the Manumuskin River. This system drains the southwest portion of the Pinelands National Reserve, providing a critical link between the Reserve and the Delaware Estuary. The project area also harbors a wide variety of rare plant communities, and wildlife including state-listed reptiles and amphibians, and an array of migrating and breeding birds including state-listed species such as bald eagle, red-headed woodpecker and barred owl. The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Action Plan cites this area as a targeted conservation zone in the Delaware Bayshore’s landscape region for its importance to southern New Jersey’s forest-interior wildlife populations and makes protection of its wetlands and water quality in this area a primary plan goal.