Wildlands Conservancy announced the purchase of 180 acres of significant natural habitat in Tunkhannock and Tobyhanna townships, Monroe County to add to the organization's land preservation holdings.

This $235,000 acquisition, called the Haase Tract, was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Monroe County, with the cooperation of the former owners of the property, the Haase family.

"The protection of this property is an important conservation success and is instrumental in continuing our mission to protect environmentally important land," remarked Chris Kocher, president of Wildlands. "Projects like this one provide connectivity through some of the area's most highly sensitive wildlife and wetland habitat."

"DCNR is proud to be a partner with Wildlands Conservancy and Monroe County on acquiring this 180-acre tract. This project fits nicely to our work in the Pocono Forests and Water Conservation Landscape and helps to conserve land and provide outdoor recreation opportunities in a region that relies on those opportunities for economic vitality," said DCNR secretary Richard Allan.

"Monroe County was pleased to assist in the acquisition of the Haase property, which will enhance the access to properties already acquired by Wildlands, The Nature Conservancy and both Tunkhannock and Tobyhanna townships," said Christine Dettore, director of Monroe County Planning Commission. "Partnerships such as this continue to prove to be the success of the county's Open Space Program. We look forward to our continued work with Wildlands Conservancy."

"It is a property that had been identified by a number of organizations and agencies for several years," said Carl Martin, director of Property Stewardship for the Wildlands Conservancy. "It is valuable because of its location, natural resources and water quality benefits."

The Haase Tract is located between the Pocono Raceway and Route 80. The property will allow public access to the land trust's 482-acre Maple Tract Preserve, a wildlife habitat for osprey, bald eagles, goshawks and a population of Northern Flying Squirrel, a "state endangered" mammal species which has been confirmed on the property, which is largely landlocked by surrounding private properties.

The Haase Tract had previously been logged and has historically been the site of a peat mining operation, whose remains are still visible.

The property is at the headwaters of streams that feed into the Lehigh River and the Bethlehem Water Authority reservoir.

"A lot of the lands around here are targeted for protection from activities that would potentially threaten the water quality that is coming off the land," Martin noted. "This is one of the keystone properties that fit into that larger matrix of lands that filter the water that ultimately flows into the Lehigh River, which provides drinking water to Bethlehem and Allentown."

Through this purchase, Wildlands Conservancy will open the property to the public, and with future trails planned, the parcel will be open for passive recreation including hiking, hunting and wildlife viewing. The Conservancy will begin working on plans to create a trailhead with public parking.

"We always want to get people out on the property," said Abigail Pattishall, vice president of Conservation for Wildlands Conservancy. "We want people to connect with nature, but at the same time we want to be able to protect the critical natural resources that are there until we have time to identify what those resources are."

Wildlands Conservancy is celebrating its 40th anniversary of protecting more than 50,000 acres of land. It owns nine nature preserves totaling over 2,600 acres and holds 65 conservation easements for the permanent protection of over 7,000 acres.

For information, contact Pattishall at apattishall@wildlandspa.org.