The Conservancy is pleased to announce that 3,683 acres of forestland have now been permanently protected in Pike County, PA. Three hunt clubs—Mink Pond Club, Maskenozha Rod & Gun Club, and Lehman Lake Rod and Gun Club—together form “The Northeast Connection”: thousands of contiguous, unfragmented acres of forests, lakes, and wetlands along the Little Bushkill Creek in Pike County, Pennsylvania.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund of the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program allocated $3.33 million, and philanthropy contributed another $1.11 million, toward the Northeast Connection project to permanently protect these three properties with conservation easements. This project was therefore made possible by a strong partnership between public and private funding. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement between a landowner and a land trust that permanently protects a property’s natural values while the landowner continues to own and manage the land, subject to the permitted uses detailed in the easement. As per the guidelines of the Forest Legacy program, the easements will be transferred to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to hold in perpetuity.
“The Delaware Highlands Conservancy thanks everyone involved in this project over the past thirteen years: the generous funders who made it possible, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the leadership and members of Mink Pond, Maskenozha, and Lehman Lake hunt clubs for their investment in the future of our region,” stated Diane Rosencrance, Executive Director of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy. “The Northeast Connection will protect our clean air and drinking water, provide habitat for wildlife, and provide recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts for generations to come.”
The project will connect two adjacent large protected landscapes, creating a nearly 4-mile natural corridor between the 83,500-acre Delaware State forest and the ~70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and will conserve over ten miles of headwater streams designated as “High Quality” by the State of Pennsylvania. The conserved property flanks the Delaware River and Kittatinny Ridge, both essential for migration and movement of wildlife species.
Private forest landowners have numerous opportunities to protect their cherished forestlands for future generations, including working with a land trust like the Delaware Highlands Conservancy to craft a land conservation agreement for the property. Landowners in the Delaware River watershed may be eligible for funding to assist with the costs of protecting their properties or implementing a forest management plan; contact the Conservancy to learn more at 570-226-3164 or 845-583-1010.
The Northeast Connection project was supported through the Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund. The Fund is made possible by the William Penn Foundation and its Delaware River Watershed Initiative, which works to protect water quality in the Delaware River Basin.
The project was additionally supported through the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which is made possible with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Resilient Landscapes Initiative seeks to build capacity of land trusts working to respond to climate change and to expand protection of “climate-resilient” landscapes, or lands that will continue to provide habitat and a haven for wildlife, even as the climate changes.
“The protection of these three properties is an historic achievement for these three local hunt clubs, which are themselves longtime, ardent champions of environmental protection within the Poconos,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “The conservation of their lands will protect forests and cold water streams that provide clean drinking water for cities including Philadelphia, Trenton, and Wilmington, as well as diverse geology and habitats critical for supporting species as the climate changes. We congratulate our partner the Delaware Highlands Conservancy on their dogged, decade-long effort to see this project come to fruition.”
Funding support was also provided by the Pike County Scenic Rural Character Preservation Program.