More than a year ago, the leaders of Eden Hill Conservancy, an all-volunteer land trust located in Huntingdon County, knew they needed to dissolve due to increasing operational challenges. But before doing so, they wanted to transfer their conservation easements to a reputable and accredited land trust in Pennsylvania to hold and steward its two conservation easements, which total 207 acres.
Through a series of agreements that were finalized in March 2020, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will now assume the responsibility for monitoring and caring for the EHC properties’ conservation values in perpetuity. Conservation easements allow landowners, in this case the private owners of the protected properties, to continue to own and use their land but limit certain types of development to protect the land’s natural features.
“WPC was a good choice to be exceptional stewards of our easements because of its outstanding reputation, expertise in forested and agricultural properties, and presence in the area” said Anthony Riley, president of EHC.
WPC staff will now monitor the properties yearly so that the land remains natural, undeveloped and the conservation values remain protected. During monitoring visits, staff will also be on the lookout for issues of harm, such as ATV use or illegal dumping, which can diminish the land’s quality.
“We are honored to have been selected by EHC, which was a well-managed land trust led by conservation-minded landowners who volunteered countless hours and cared deeply for this special land. We’re very happy to assume responsibility for the ongoing stewardship of this land to ensure that the conservation values remain intact, natural and scenic,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of WPC.
In the early 1990s, landowners Wallace “Bill” and Marie Wolf Riley wished to protect their 113-acre farm, Irish Pines Tree Farm, by putting it under conservation easement. Eden Hill Conservancy was established to focus on conservation of the Eden Hill area of Spruce Creek Township in Huntingdon County. Shortly thereafter, the Rileys donated a conservation easement on Irish Pines to EHC, which became the land trust’s first easement. Irish Pines has been in the Wolf-Riley family for more than 80 years and now counts fifth-generation family members among its owners.
The land is located in the Central Ridges and Valleys Region of the state, which is characterized by large expanses of public lands often with agrarian heritage evident across the landscape.
Other Eden Hill area landowners subsequently protected their two properties with conservation easements, which were also donated to EHC. For years, EHC worked collaboratively with the landowners in protecting conservation values and educating the community about environmental stewardship.
EHC board members say Bill was a staunch advocate for conservation and passionate about his land being used as an outdoor classroom.
“In the course of a man’s life, something comes along that stirs his soul. For the past 65 years, my source of inspiration has been Eden Hill,” Bill said prior to his passing in 2007.
Bill and Marie would have been pleased to know that EHC’s legacy will continue for future generations of people and wildlife.
“The EHC board feels fortunate that WPC shares an interest in protecting the properties and conservation values of the special place known as Eden Hill. The EHC Board is proud of its 25 years of service to the Eden Hill community and is grateful that EHC’s work will endure thanks to WPC,” said Dan Leri, an EHC board member.
Along with the exchange of conservation easements, the EHC board also donated funds to support WPC’s stewardship and legal endowments.