Friday, October 20, 2023

North Branch Land Trust, Earth Conservancy, DCNR Preserve 1,400 Acres In Luzerne County

On October 20, regional conservation partners
North Branch Land Trust, Earth Conservancy, and the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources announced they finalized the conservation of 1,400 acres in Hanover and Newport townships in Luzerne County known as Wilkes Barre Mountain, including the Hanover Reservoir. 

Now under the stewardship of DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry, Little Wilkes-Barre Mountain has officially joined the Pinchot State Forest system and will provide natural connectivity in perpetuity. 

These acres add significantly to the existing greenway corridor along the Penobscot Mountain ridgetop and help connect the Bureau of Forestry lands at Mocanaqua and Arbutus Peak. 

The project area also adds to a greenway corridor that spans approximately eighty miles running northeast from Luzerne and Carbon Counties to Pike County and the Delaware River. 

“Earth Conservancy is pleased to continue its partnership with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and North Branch Land Trust in conserving local forests for public benefit,” said Earth Conservancy President/CEO Terence J. Ostrowski. “This project – totaling 1,400 acres – will preserve the undisturbed ridgeline of the Wilkes-Barre Mountains between Sugar Notch Gap and Alden Mountain Road and protect the gem in those woods – the Hanover Reservoir. All will now be part of the Pinchot State Forest. 

“The project also supports Earth Conservancy’s mission of allocating 10,000 of its original 16,000 acres of former Blue Coal land for greenspace and recreation. We now are within a few hundred acres of that goal,” said Ostrowski.  “Wild areas like these are integral to the character of Lower South Valley. By transferring ownership to the Commonwealth, we help safeguard the region’s natural beauty and its ecosystems and improve its quality of life.”

This important tract protects habitat and threatened or endangered species including the Indiana Bat and the Northern Long-eared Bat, a cold-water fishery, and scenic mountain highlands. 

The mosaic landscape consists of a mix of dry oak heath and hemlock conifer forested woodlands, reclaimed fields from past surface mining and ridgetop rock outcroppings. 

Water features on the property include cold-water tributaries of the Susquehanna River, the Hanover Reservoir, and various wetlands and vernal pools. 

“North Branch Land Trust is thrilled to have a hand in conserving this stunning ridgeline,” said North Branch Land Trust Executive Director Ellen Ferretti. “The diversity of habitats, wildlife, and plants, in this tract is a wonderful representation of magnificent Northeastern Pennsylvania’s natural resources. The Hanover Reservoir is an area of adventure and nostalgia for many members of the local community. We are overjoyed to see these lands and waters conserved in perpetuity for the benefit of future generations.” 

The public benefits from conservation of this site in perpetuity are numerous: promote groundwater infiltration by retaining a permeable forested tract; protect reclaimed surface mined areas that if disturbed could create acid mine runoff; protect cold water fishery and brook trout habitats that drain directly into the Susquehanna River; protect wetlands, floodplains, and seasonal vernal pools; protect known critical habitat for threatened or endangered species; and protect environmentally sensitive lands for health, habitat, and biodiversity for future generations.

“As the steward of Pennsylvania’s public lands, we are excited to join our partners in acquiring this land for conservation within Pinchot State Forest,” said Pinchot District Forester Nicholas Lylo. “This partnership gives us the opportunity to sustain healthy forests, protect important wildlife habitats and expand recreation opportunities for locals and visitors to the region looking to experience the majesty of Penn’s Woods.”

Living adjacent to a portion of the new State Forest tract, Chris and Gail Stasko of Warrior Run said, “We couldn’t ask for better neighbors. We’ve known this vista for almost forty years, and over all that time the view has only been getting better and better. Rocky strippings have been reclaimed by this beautiful forest that is enjoyed by so many in the community. We love it for its accessibility. We love to see the porcupines, the deer, the bear, the turkeys, all the wildlife that call it home. We are thrilled that it’s in great hands and that it can continue to be enjoyed by many in stewardship of a beautiful future.” 

Funding assistance has been provided by DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and Environmental Stewardship Fund as well as generous donations from Earth Conservancy. 

Related Article:

-- Natural Lands Adds 47 Acres To William Penn State Forest Zimmerman Natural Area In Berks County  [PaEN]

[Posted: October 20, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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