Family to Forestland

Family tree 1“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”  Baba Dioum

This summer the Delaware Highlands Conservancy launched the “Family Tree Series” of educational programs to help kids and families connect to nature—and to foster conversation about the future of their own family lands.

The “Boards to Birdhouses” workshop attendees, which included grandparents, parents and young children, took a walk in a local forest, learned how trees are selected and cut, and then watched a portable sawmill turn trees into boards. The landowner then guided attendees in building their own birdhouses to take home.

The mission of the Conservancy, and the definitions of things like conservation easements or working forests, can sometimes be challenging to apply to everyday life. But in the Family Tree workshop series, attendees get the complete picture of just how protected lands benefit the community, the types of jobs that working forests can create, and the many different ways of connecting to forestland, from bird-watching and hiking to sustainably harvesting and selling timber.

“I’m thrilled to be hosting a series of workshops where children of all ages can come and explore with their parents and grandparents and learn more about our local forest lands,” says Stewardship and Education Coordinator Amanda Subjin. “My husband and 3-year-old son participated in the workshops and have a clearer view of what comes from the forest and why it is so important to keep these lands undeveloped. At the Boards to Birdhouses event, it was exciting to see all the kids and their caregivers follow the path of the tree from forest to finished product.

When children have the opportunity to connect to and learn about nature—especially what they see in their own communities and backyards—they become responsible stewards of the land, which is a commitment that lasts a lifetime.

Family tree 2For adults, the series presents new ideas on how to manage their land, as well as options on how to support our local economy. And shopping local is easy. A dynamic, searchable website ShopLocalSaveLand.com connects consumers to local providers of variety of wood products: from foresters and loggers to sawmills and local furniture makers.

Supporting local forest products businesses means supporting our locally sustainable forest economy, and it means the ability to sustain the forestlands we cherish. It assures that our valuable forests will be here for future generations, and that vital drinking water sources are protected for us and for everyone downstream–the Upper Delaware River provides water to over 15 million people. That water is filtered by the healthy forests that thrive here.

The Family Tree series fosters this sense of wonder and responsibility, connects kids and families to local conservation, and supports a sustainable future for the Upper Delaware River region.

To see the Conservancy’s schedule of upcoming events visit www.DelawareHighlands.org. The Family Tree series workshops are supported by the Grey Towers Heritage Association.

 

 

Property Once Slated for Development Now a Refuge

Natural Lands Trust’s Green Hills Preserve now open to the public

GreenHillsPreserve by JimMoffettNatural Lands Trust today announced that its 168-acres nature preserve in Robeson Township, Berks County, is now open to the public. Once slated for development, the property—known as Green Hills Preserve—provides crucial habitat for wildlife; now, it is a place of refuge and exploration for visitors as well.

The property, originally approved for a high-density development, went into foreclosure in 2009. Prudential Fox & Roach’s Land Development Division took the unusual step of seeking a conservation solution. After more than two years working to piece together critical funding, Natural Lands Trust was able to purchase the property from the lender in 2012.

Over the past two years, Natural Lands Trust has worked to secure funding for visitor amenities, such as parking and a trail network. With those elements now in place, Green Hills Preserve is open—free-of-charge—to visitors for hiking, bird watching, nature exploration, and dog walking (dogs must be leashed at all times). The preserve is open during daylight hours, seven days per week.

Green Hills Preserve features gently rolling agricultural fields, woodlands, and wetlands. A tributary to Allegheny Creek, a PA Department of Environmental Protection-designated “Cold Water Fishery” stream, bisects the preserve. The Preserve is situated within the Schuylkill Highlands, a region at the nexus of two landscapes that have been prioritized for protection: the Highlands (as defined by the US Congress) and the Schuylkill River watershed (a focus of much planning work by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the Philadelphia Water Department). The area’s importance derives from the need to protect water quality, conserve habitat, and develop recreational opportunities in a region set for considerable growth over the next 20 years.

For more information about Natural Lands Trust’s Green Hills Preserve, including directions, visit www.natlands.org/greenhills.

 

11 Easy Ways to Support Adams County Farmers—and Why You Should

by Chris Little, Communications Director at the Land Conservancy of Adams County.

Drive out of Gettysburg in any direction and you quickly enter farmland, field after rolling field of orchards, pastures, and cropland. In fact, according to the Penn State Extension, more than half of Adams County is farmland—nearly 171,3050 acres of it. The county ranks sixth in Pennsylvania in terms of agricultural production overall—and first in the state for apples and peaches and fourth in the nation for apples.

All this farming is good for the local economy. According to the 2012 federal farm census, Adams County farmers generate more than $207 million in agricultural production that year, paying their employees more than $33 million and generating more than $5.1 million in property taxes.

Farming is big business in Adams County. It is also a big reason why this is such a great place to live—think of all those beautiful hills covered with apple trees in blossom, the rolling fields of soybeans and corn, all those picturesque cows and sheep. Without farming, Adams County would be a very different—and much less desirable—place to live.

But Adams County will only have farming as long as our farmers can earn a living here. Here are eleven easy ways you can help support Adams County farmers and farming:

1. Shop at your local farmers’ markets. This is one of the easiest—and most delicious—ways to support Adams County farmers. Find out the locations of some of our farmers’ markets at http://www.acfarmersmarkets.org and at http://www.gettysburgfarmmarket.com.

2. Buy directly from the farm! You can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and more right off the farm when you shop at Hollabaugh’s Farm Market, the Round Barn, Boyer’s Farm Market, and other farms that have markets, like Sandoe’s and McDannell’s. You can find a list of local right-on-the-farm markets at http://www.adamsfoodpolicy.org—just search their local food guide.

3. Have a drink! Adams County is home to several established wineries—Adams County Winery, the Hauser Estate Winery, and Reid’s Orchard and Winery come to mind—with new wineries in development. If hard cider is more to your liking, try Good Intent Cider, which opened right here in Adams County in 2010.

4. Join a CSA. Many of our local farmers run Community-Supported Agriculture programs, where members of the community “subscribe” to a share of the farm’s produce. This is a great way to support your local grower while learning just what they produce each season.

5. Attend the annual Apple Blossom and Apple Harvest festivals and the South Mountain Fair. These community events honor the hard work our farmers do to provide food for people across the country. They are a great way to see the best of what Adams County farmers produce.

6. Attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Adams County farmers consistently win statewide awards for their products. Go see their displays and be proud of what our farmers can do!

7. Shop at local businesses that supply Adams County farmers. Buying annuals for your garden? Buy them at Agway instead of Walmart. Need a new lawnmower? Stop in at O.C. Rice in Biglerville and save yourself the drive to Lowe’s. Supporting local businesses that serve our farmers provides a great service to our farmers by keeping their suppliers nearby.

8. Be patient when you are stuck behind a tractor on the road. The farmer is driving as fast as he or she safely can to get to work on another field, so relax and be patient! In the same vein, be tolerant of smelly fertilizer applications. This is the stinky side of farming—but it is environmentally responsible and ensures healthy crops and soil for years to come!

9. Volunteer for the Adams County Gleaning Network. This local group of volunteers helps feed the hungry in Adams County by collecting food that farmers can not sell to be used by the Gettysburg Community Soup Kitchen, South Central Community Action Program (SCAAP), and local food pantries. Helping out can be as simple as picking up boxes of “seconds” from a farm market to actually harvesting produce from a farmer’s field. To learn more, visit http://www.thegleaningproject.org or search for “Adams County Gleaning Network” on Facebook.

10. Support the Land Conservancy of Adams County. This local nonprofit land trust works with regional and national grant organizations to help farmers preserve their land and stay in business. Find out more about the Land Conservancy at http://www.LCACnet.org.

11. Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meats—the more you appreciate fresh farm produce, the more you will appreciate Adams County farmers!

For more information about Adams County agriculture, start with a visit to Adams County’s Penn State Extension office at http://www.extension.psu.edu/adams. To learn more about where to find fresh produce grown by Adams County farmers, visit http://www.adamsfoodpolicy.org and take a look at their Local Foods Guide. And to learn more about the Land Conservancy of Adams County, visit http://www.LCACnet.org, call (717) 334-2828, or email LCAC@adamscounty.us.

Partnership forms, seeks funds to expand park

A partnership has been formed between Sewickley Heights Borough and Allegheny Land Trust to launch a campaign to purchase a 58-acre gap in Sewickley Heights Park for $1 million.

The land is under contract with approximately 30% of the funds needed to purchase it having already been raised. Those who know that it is not park land often refer to it as the “hole-in-the-doughnut” because it is surrounded by Borough park land and conservation lands held by ALT.

The densely wooded and frequently steep terrain bounded by Fern Hollow Road and Borough Park Road in Sewickley Heights hosts popular hiking, biking and equestrian trails that most users think are on park land. ALT and the Borough have been working together for four years, recently got it under contract and now have a short window of opportunity to raise the necessary funds. The closing is scheduled for December.

“People have been enjoying this wonderful natural and recreational asset for generations, and this is a critical time for the community to step forward and protect this property for future generations,” said Borough Mayor John Oliver.

Grants are pending with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Department of Community and Economic Development. However, these public grants require a local match. The community goal for this project is $500,000, which may increase or decrease depending on the outcome of the pending public grants.

“We are making it easy for people to make tax-deductible contributions,” adds Mr. Oliver. Signs and envelopes have been placed at both parking lots at the Park, and people also can give online at http://www.alleghenylandtrust.org.

125 raptors and counting: Annual tally is underway

broadwing by john stetsonStarting next week, David Barber will provide us the weekly versus season totals, weather forecasts and flight predictions, but for now, this message serves as a quick summary to get you through the weekend:

In less than a week, the official daily record of migratory raptors has already topped 100 birds, including 50 broadwings, 17 ospreys, 12 bald eagles, 12 sharpies and 12 kestrels. Two highlights came yesterday when an adult and a juvenile bald eagle circled over the ridge before heading north, and Monday, when two broadwings repeatedly dove at the owl decoy. Great looks!

As always, you can call the Info Line at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary any day after 6 pm for the day’s count and to hear the weather forecast for the following day by dialing 610-756-6000 x6, or, visit the Raptor Count Page to see the daily, weekly and season totals. You also can use the page to search specific dates or seasons dating back to 1934.

 

Sanctuary celebrates state, county grants: Funds will help build accessible walkway

A group of state and Berks County elected officials including Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley gathered at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary to launch the Sanctuary’s latest visitor upgrade:  a fully-accessible connector trail that links the outdoor amphitheater, Visitor Center, Native Plant Garden, the parking areas and trailhead entrance. The $800,000 project, funded by a $250,000 state grant through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, is the result of a visitor and vehicle circulation study, and will improve safety, increase accessibility, and improve overall visitor services.

During the program, Berks County Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach surprised Hawk Mountain leaders by announcing that the commissioners have unanimously agreed to commit $365,670 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds toward the upgrade in 2015.

“I’m speechless,” says Hawk Mountain President Jerry Regan, as he chatted with a group of guests, which included the Lieutenant Governor, State Senators Dave Argall and Judy Schwank, Commissioners Leinbach and Kevin Barnhardt, and State Representative Jerry Knowles.

“Look at the representation we have here today,” he said, motioning to the legislators. “I’ve never been involved with an organization that attracted such broad support, and I couldn’t be more proud of what we’re going to accomplish with this investment.”

Long-time visitor Cyrus Klingsburg, 88, explains that an accessible walkway is a much-needed resource. Photo by Tim Leedy.

Regan said that while plans for the walkway initially stretched from the amphitheater to the trailhead entrance, the staff and board agreed to expand the vision, to stretch the walkway to the nearby South Lookout.

“This is what our visitors and members really want,” he explained. “To make sure that every person who visits Hawk Mountain can be inspired by the view of the mountain and the migration.”

Long-time member Cyrus Klingsburg, 88, was especially pleased with this news, as he always recalled how his late wife Vera could not make the walk to the nearby South Lookout, one of their favorite destinations. On their last visit, she was forced to sit inside the Visitor Center and wait for Cyrus to return.

“I’m sure that my wife was far from unique in her disappointment at being physically unable to enjoy the view from that vantage point,” Klinsburg said.

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley

The cost to extend the trail adds an additional $400,000 to the total project price tag, but Lieutenant Governor Cawley explained that Hawk Mountain is an important facility in the Commonwealth and worthy of support.

“Places like Hawk Mountain are what defines us as Pennsylvanians and what defines our communities,” he said. “We realize your value. We realize your importance,” he added, noting that the Sanctuary, as a private non-profit organization, receives absolutely no budgeted line item in any state or federal budget.

“The Commonwealth is proud to step forward with grants and aid to allow the Sanctuary to continue its important work,” he explained.

The new walkway will use permeable pavers and other green-building designs, incorporate a buffer of thick native plantings to visually separate the parking areas, and better help first-time visitors to navigate by funneling them to the Visitor Center and other outdoor facilities.

While final plans for the extension to the closest scenic overlook are still underway, the short but steep trail will be made accessible by incorporating a series of switchbacks, and offer two routes—one that is longer but wheelchair accessible, or the existing shorter pathway. Bench seating along the way, interpretative signage, and ADA-compliant trailside restrooms will also be part of the plan.

Leinbach says that the commissioners are equally proud to partner on this project and to commit verbally $360,675 in community development block grant funds.

“It gets them very close to the finish line and I believe that there are people who are potential major contributors and it is my hope that this will push them over the top.”

Land Trust acquires land, hosts ribbon-cutting

Acquisition of this 48-acre property located in the Borough of Sewickley Hills will 1) extend the Audubon Greenway, 2) buffer from residential sprawl the Little and Big Sewickley Creek Landscape Conservation Area as defined by the Allegheny County Natural Heritage Inventory, 3) extend the 43 miles of existing trails and link local public parks and conservation lands held by ALT as shown on this map.

The property was being actively marketed by the owners when ALT negotiated a sales agreement. We understand that developers, whom recently developed nearby property had approached the owners as well. The outcomes of acquiring this property include the public benefits of protecting existing trails used by equestrians, hikers and bikers; maintaining a dense woodland buffer to diminish the impacts of traffic noise and pollution generated by adjacent I-79; working towards connecting two municipal parks; conserving headwater woodlands and springs.

The 48 rolling acres is an ALT GreenPrint hit which means that it meets biodiversity, water resource management and aesthetic criteria. The ALT GreenPrint was integrated into Allegheny County’s first Comprehensive Plan, which involved significant public participation and was finally adopted by County Council in November 2008. ALT has on file the Allegheny County Consistency Review Letter that we need for our DCNR grant application, and that confirms that conserving the land is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. The Sewickley Valley Rivers Conservation and Management Plan also identifies the property as a high ranking greenway prospect. Conserving the land is also consistent with the Sewickley Hills Comprehensive Plan to maintain its rural character.

Protection of the mature forest will preserve the ecological functions of storm water management through natural infiltration of up to 76% of the annual precipitation. This helps to prevent downstream flooding. ALT has been working to acquire this project for several years to expand our Audubon Greenway that will ultimately include more than 1,500 acres and link four municipal parks in the Little Sewickley Creek Watershed. In 2013, a Duquesne University Graduate student submitted a petition and presented more than a decade’s worth of Little Sewickley Creek water quality data to the PA Department of Environmental Protection. DEP is now considering upgrading Little Sewickley Creek to Exceptional Value (EV), the highest water quality ranking a stream can have in Pennsylvania.

ALT’s community-based conservation strategy has been successful since we initiated it several years ago. From early meetings in peoples’ homes to larger meetings later on, ALT is educating people about the benefits of green space and the need to protect the best. We know they have received the message when they contribute financially during the fundraising phase of the project, and later on as volunteer site stewards once the land is protected. More than $60,000 has been donated or pledged by local residents so far.
Land Trust acquires land, will host ribbon-cutting

Preservation for Civil War Buffs

Cassandra and Bill Pulig were “brought to” their land in Quaker Valley by a series of serendipitous, and a few scary, events. Having met in the graduate program at the University of Detroit’s Medical College, the couple had grown up in the North Country of changing seasons and shade trees.

Then they moved to the Santa Rosa area in Northern California, a beautiful ranch on the Russian River, and stellar careers—Cassandra in bio-chemistry and executive development for the big names of Hewlett-Packard, Syntex, Silicon Graphics, and even Industrial Lights & Magic (that’s George Lukas films!), while Bill followed the path of army physician for 30 years.

Somehow, that California mystique changed with wildfires, lack of water, commuting, developments, and Cassandra’s developing pulmonary hypertension. All of which brought them to Pennsylvania, where Pittsburgh pulmonary experts are the best in the nation. And, they had missed those broad-leafed trees! The couple moved to Pennsylvania in April of 1998. Cassandra underwent successful double lung transplant surgery in 2001.

The Puligs had also grown a fascination for Civil War history and re-enactments while in California, which brought them to Gettysburg, after briefly checking out a few other Pennsylvania neighborhoods, although Bill’s family is from western Pennsylvania. Imagine the thrill of finding 105 acres in Butler Township, within the original William Penn land grant, with a beautifully maintained Georgian home, a pond, a wood lot, and gently rolling hills that had been run through by Jubal Early’s troops. They also purchased another, non-adjacent orchard that had already been preserved through the Adams County Farm Preservation program.

Cassandra contacted the Land Conservancy of Adams County more than two years ago about preserving their property. She and Bill took time away from their ideal life of volunteering and part-time professional work—Cassandra with the Penn State Fruit Lab and counseling, Bill with hospice and Lutheran Health Care—to work with the Land Conservancy on crafting a conservation easement on 96.7 acres of their orchard and farmland. The Puligs’ easement was finalized on May 19, thanks in part to funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with county matching funds. The Puligs are delighted with the “excellent help” they received preserving this special farm, citing the expert work of the Land Conservancy’s conservation coordinator, Sarah Kipp. The Puligs proudly display a Land Conservancy sign at the end of their lane.

The preservation of the Puligs’ land is important not only because of the history and well-preserved nature of the property, but also because the land adjoins other preserved farms in this high, open section of Adams County. The Puligs will continue to farm their land, with apple orchards and Leicester Longwool sheep, an endangered species. It’s a perfect re-enactment of past centuries on this property!

The Land Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) member-supported organization with the mission of preserving the rural lands and character of Adams County. For further information, call 717-334-2828, email LCAC@adamscounty.us, or visit the website http://www.LCACnet.org.

Susquehanna Greenway Partnership Mini-Grant Program

Mini-Grants for the Susquehanna Greenway region are intended to stimulate projects that align with the goals of the partnership and advance strategic approaches to conservation and connections. The theme for the 2014-15 Mini-Grant program is: Susquehanna Greenway Signage and Interpretation

This is a competitive grants program for interpretative planning and signage projects that will help improve the experience of people who are using walking and biking trails, water trails, community parks, or visiting river towns within the Susquehanna Greenway.  A total of $60,000 is available for 1). Developing plans to interpret and promote a community’s heritage, natural and recreational resources, and 2). Designing, fabrication, and installing signs based on the Susquehanna Greenway Sign Design Guidelines (a link is provided below).

Eligible applicants include municipalities, COGs, conservation districts, and any “authority” recognized under the Pennsylvania Municipality Authorities Act.  Non-Profits alone are not eligible to apply but are encouraged to partner with their local municipality or any other eligible applicatant to apply.  Any non-profit that wishes to apply should contact Zach Pyle, SGP River Towns Coordinator at 570-522-7339 or by email at zpyle@susquehannagreenway.org.

Project must be located within the Susquehanna Greenway in these PA counties:  Susquehanna, Bradford, Wyoming, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Indiana, Cambria, Clearfield, Clinton, Lycoming, Union, Snyder, Juniata, Perry, Dauphin, and Cumberland.

Mini-Grant Timeline

  • Grant Round Opens:  Wednesday, May 28, 2014
  • Submission Deadline: Thursday, July 22, 2014
  • Grant Awards Announced: Tuesday, September 2, 2014
  • Project Completion: Friday, May 15, 2015

Saving ConaMoore Farm

7aThe shady woodlands, rolling pastures, and picturesque buildings of ConaMoore Farm serve as the gateway to East Nantmeal Township, Chester County. The land was once part of a William Penn grant, and has been in the McAfee family for five generations.

When family members considered taking the steps necessary to preserve their beloved farm, they reached out to the East Nantmeal Land Trust, which, in turn, asked for assistance from Natural Lands Trust. Together, the two organizations developed a preservation strategy that maximized both the acreage preserved and the financial return for the family. The project included a 120-acre agricultural easement granted to Chester County and two conservation easements, 33 acres and 10 acres, granted to Natural Lands Trust.

“It’s been this way for so long, we thought it sure would be nice if it could stay this way,” said Kevin McAfee of his family’s decision to protect their farm. McAfee, who has no siblings or children, says the conservation easement gives him comfort when he thinks about ConaMoore Farm’s future. “We don’t know who will farm it next, but we know it will always be here… all in one piece.”

The farm lies within a landscape known as the Hopewell Big Woods, the largest unbroken forest remaining in southeastern Pennsylvania. An expanse of more than 73,000 acres, the Hopewell Big Woods is one of the most important natural areas in the region.

Stated Chester County Commissioners Ryan Costello, Kathi Cozzone, and Terence Farrell, “Much of the success and accomplishments of Chester County’s open space program are due to the tremendous support of private conservation and the efforts of organizations like Natural Lands Trust. The conservation of ConaMoore Farm is a great example of this, and we thank the McAfee family for their commitment to the farm’s preservation.”

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