PENNSYLVANIA—The USDA Forest Service and Pennsylvania are celebrating an important conservation milestone with the closure of major Forest Service Forest Legacy Program conservation easements in the Eastern Region.
“The Northeast Connection” project ties together and conserves forever lands totaling 3,683 acres from three separate hunting and fishing clubs in the Delaware River Watershed.
As a result of the easements, environmentally important areas threatened by development in the Eastern Region will stay forested and continue to protect the Little Bushkill Creek Watershed that flows into the Delaware River. Conservation of this land also adds to a 155,000-acre block of contiguous conserved land that protects important wildlife habitat for threatened and endangered species. Birds of prey that are species of concern documented on the site include the nesting bald eagle, osprey, northern goshawk, red-shouldered hawk, and broad-winged hawk.
The properties have been professionally managed for over 100 years for wildlife habitat and sustainable timber production. This has included timber stand improvement-based selective harvesting and plantings and extensive deer exclosures to promote forest regeneration.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired the conservation easements using a combination of county, private foundation and federal funds. The Forest Legacy Program provided $3,333,000 in Land & Water Conservation funding for the acquisition of the easement land with an appraised value of $4,444,000.
The combined properties connect the Delaware State Forest and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, visited by 5 million people per year, and encompass the river valley in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Delaware River Basin, of which these properties are a part, contributes $25 billion in annual economic activity from recreation, water supply, hunting/fishing, ecotourism, forestry and agriculture (of which $5.13 billion is from forest-related products and activities).
Officials signed the conservation easement agreement Dec. 2, 2019. A more elaborate celebration is planned for late April 2020.