633 acres protected in Penn Forest
The Wildlands Conservancy, a regional nonprofit land trust, announced Thursday the permanent protection of approximately 633 acres in Penn Forest Township.
Wildlands officials said the crucial milestone not only safeguards pristine forests but also ensures the sustained availability of clean, healthy water for drinking, fishing and recreational activities along the Lehigh River.
Among the 633 acres is the protection of about 1.25 miles of Drakes Creek, a pristine cold-water fishery and vital tributary to the Lehigh River.
“The permanent protection of the Drakes Creek property will benefit communities throughout the Lehigh River watershed forever,” said Christopher Kocher, Wildlands Conservancy president. “It’s a strong example of the power of legacy partnerships and a shared vision for connected green spaces, protected natural habitat, clean water, and generations living in connection with nature.”
According to a news release from the organization, the property also expands the protection of a vernal pool area, containing seasonal wetlands vital for the breeding habitat of a myriad species, including amphibians and invertebrates. It also holds the distinction of being part of an Important Bird Area and serves as critical habitat for species of concern.
Wildlands Conservancy facilitated the acquisition of the property, which will be immediately transferred to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, expanding State Game Lands 141 and enhancing locally accessible public lands. The expansion, officials said, is anticipated to offer a plethora of recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy in perpetuity.
“Once again, Wildlands Conservancy steps up to bring important tracts like this to the Game Commission,” David J. Gustafson, PGC director of the bureau of wildlife habitat management, said. “The Drakes Creek project will provide connectivity across the landscape by joining two pieces of State Game Land 141.”
Gustafson said protecting the property from development will add to the biological, recreational and scenic values associated with the network of lands comprising the game land.
He said that placing the land into public ownership, Wildlands Conservancy has helped the Game Commission expand habitat management opportunities for wildlife as well as opportunities for both hunters and non-hunters to enjoy wildlife-based outdoor recreational pursuits.
Stakeholders involved in the conservation effort include the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“This acquisition will expand the acreage of existing protected lands and connect areas with diverse ecology,” Cindy Adams Dunn, DCNR secretary, said.
“It will also provide additional land that can be accessed by the public as well as assist in the protection of the headwaters of the Lehigh River.”
Adams said that DCNR is always happy to partner with organizations such as Wildlands Conservancy and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
She said the partnerships are key in assisting the agency’s mission of protecting natural spaces for future generations.