In December, Central Pennsylvania Conservancy (CPC) recorded a conservation easement with Perry County landowner Matthew Rice, permanently preserving 500 acres of forested ridge habitat on the Kittatinny Ridge (also known as Blue Mountain). This property is near other protected lands, including Tuscarora State Forest, the Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary, Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch, county-preserved farms, and other nearby CPC easement properties in Perry County.

One of CPC’s primary goals is to protect forested mountain ridges, especially the Kittatinny Ridge, because it is a critically important migratory bird route with local, national, and international significance. “We applaud the long-term vision and conservation commitment of landowners like Matthew Rice, who partnered with Central Pennsylvania Conservancy to achieve the protection of special resources on this part of the Ridge in Perry County-its geology, scenic value, recreational assets, prime habitat for woodland species, and water resources,” said CPC Executive Director Anna Yelk. “With this project, CPC has permanently protected over 6,000 acres of land and natural resources in Central Pennsylvania.”

The property was valued in the highest category for protection according to a GIS analysis completed by The Nature Conservancy and Pennsylvania Audubon Society and funded by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for use by land trust partners of the Kittatinny Coalition. The Kittatinny Ridge landscape is a recognized Globally Important Bird Area (IBA) and an Important Mammal Area (IMA) for threatened bats and Allegheny woodrat.

Appalachian Audubon Society (AAS) was a key funder and partner in this effort. “This project is important to AAS as it adds to the protection of the forested Kittatinny Ridge for songbird nesting, raptor migration, and water quality for residents of Perry County,” said AAS President Kathy Kuchwara. “The partnership of a landowner, a local land trust, and a local chapter of the National Audubon Society to permanently protect ridge habitat for wildlife and future generations is something we can all be proud of.”

“Commitments both large and small to preservation of nature by individuals and organizations inevitably make a large positive impact for the environment and mankind,” said Matthew Rice.

This property is part of a contiguous forest block of over 4,000 acres, and offers refuge for woodland organisms requiring deep woods. These include Scarlet Tanager, a species of conservation concern observed on the property, and the Golden-winged Warbler. If not protected, these natural resources would be threatened by construction, fragmentation, and mismanagement.

In terms of water resources, the protected land maintains and improves the quality of water within, around, and downstream of the property. Both Sherman Creek and Stillhouse Hollow Run flow through it, tributaries to the Susquehanna River. Overall, the property filters and regulates water flows to support coldwater fisheries of Laurel Run and McCabe Run, significant for anglers.

Finally, the conservation easement protects ecosystem services, which are natural resource benefits that translate to economic value. Benefits include improving forests for silviculture; absorbing rainwater that might otherwise contribute to flooding downstream; sequestering carbon in plants and soil to mitigate rising atmospheric carbon levels; and otherwise contributing to resiliency and functioning of natural processes important to human systems. The forests, which cover 99% of the property, provide timber and employment, stabilize slopes, ease effects from storms, recharge groundwater, trap carbon, and soften impacts of intensified uses on neighboring properties.