The Central PA Conservancy recorded a conservation easement with Perry County landowner Matthew Rice, permanently preserving 500 acres of forested ridge habitat on the Kittatinny or Blue Mountain.
This property is in close proximity to other protected lands including Tuscarora State Forest (only one property divided from the state forest), the Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary, Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch, county-preserved farms, and other nearby CPC easement properties in Perry County.
One of CPC’s primary goals is to protect forested mountain ridges, especially the Kittatinny Ridge, because it is a critically important migratory bird route with local, national, and international significance.
“We applaud the long-term vision and conservation commitment of landowners like Matthew Rice, who partnered with Central PA Conservancy to achieve the protection of special resources on this part of the Ridge in Perry County-its geology, scenic value, recreational assets, prime habitat for woodland species, and water resources,” notes CPC Executive Director Anna Yelk. “With this project, CPC has permanently protected over 6,000 acres of land and natural resources in Central Pennsylvania.”
The property was valued in the highest category for protection, according to a GIS analysis completed by The Nature Conservancy-PA and PA Audubon and funded by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for use by land trust partners of the Kittatinny Coalition.
The Kittatinny Ridge landscape is recognized Globally Important Bird Area and within the state as an Important Mammal Area for threatened bats and Allegheny woodrat.
As a key funder and partner in this effort, Appalachian Audubon Society president Kathy Kuchwara claims, "This project is important to AAS as it adds to the protection of the forested Kittatinny Ridge for songbird nesting, raptor migration, and water quality for residents of Perry County. The partnership of a landowner, a local land trust, and a local chapter of the National Audubon Society to permanently protect ridge habitat for wildlife and future generations is something we can all be proud of."
Mr. Rice agrees, urging, “Commitments both large and small to preservation of nature by individuals and organizations inevitably make a large positive impact for the environment and mankind.”
This property is part of a contiguous forest block of over 4000 acres, and offers refuge for woodland organisms requiring deep woods. These include Scarlet Tanager, a species of conservation concern observed on the property, and the Golden-winged Warbler. If not protected, these natural resources would be threatened by construction, fragmentation, and mismanagement.
In terms of water resources, the protected land maintains and improves the quality of water within, around, and downstream of the property. Both Sherman Creek and Stillhouse Hollow Run flow through it, tributaries to the Susquehanna River.
Overall, the property filters and regulates water flows to support coldwater fisheries of Laurel Run and McCabe Run, significant for anglers.
Finally, the conservation easement protects ecosystem services, or natural resource benefits that translate to economic value.
For instance, to improve forests for silviculture; to absorb rainwater that might otherwise contribute to flooding downstream; sequester carbon in plants and soil to mitigate rising atmospheric carbon levels; and otherwise contribute to resiliency and functioning of natural processes important to human systems.
Forests, covering 99 percent of the property, provide timber and work, stabilize slopes, ease effects from storms, recharge groundwater, trap carbon, and soften impacts of intensified uses on neighboring properties.
There are so many facets of land protection that translate to overwhelming public benefit for current and future generations, and Central PA Conservancy looks forward to continuing its mission in the region.
We would like to thank Appalachian Audubon, Perry County Conservation District, the PA Land Trust Association, and landowner Matthew Rice for their unique roles in bringing this 3-year project to completion.For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Central PA Conservancy website, contact the office at 717-241-4360.
(Photo: Rice property, Sherman’s Creek.)