Lancaster Farmland Trust and the Lancaster County Conservancy have joined forces to implement complementary grants from the William Penn Foundation to promote strategic land conservation in the Pennsylvania Highlands region. This first of its kind, large scale project, will allow the two local conservation organizations to pool their resources and expertise to preserve farmland and open space in the northeast region of Lancaster County. The grants, totaling $330,000, will be used to identify and prioritize critical agricultural and natural lands and trail corridors; offer technical assistance to landowners to develop and implement conservation plans including forested riparian buffers; and offer assistance to targeted municipalities to develop policies and programs that protect critical lands and resources.

“The William Penn Foundation grant will assist Lancaster Farmland Trust in identifying priority farmland for permanent protection.  We will also be able to focus on those properties that will benefit the most from best management practices and help improve water quality in the Highlands region.  Coordinating our efforts with the Lancaster County Conservancy allows us to think holistically to protect critical Lancaster County landscapes,” explained Stephanie Smith, Municipal Outreach Coordinator for Lancaster Farmland Trust.

The Pennsylvania Highlands region is an area of the Appalachian Mountains located in Eastern Pennsylvania. In Lancaster County specifically, the Highlands are concentrated in the northeastern part of the county and include 20 municipalities mainly within the Conestoga River Watershed. The region is ecologically important because of its valuable natural resources and watersheds. Its dense forests protect and supply clean drinking water, protect against urban sprawl, and its working farms contain some of the most productive non-irrigated soils in the country.

“The grants from the William Penn Foundation provide a unique opportunity for the Conservancy and the Trust to work together to protect lands that possess the very best characteristics of open space and working agricultural lands.  The grant will further the Conservancy’s mission to protect watersheds and will enhance natural resource protection by coordinating the efforts of two conservation organizations,” said Tom Stahl, Director of Stewardship for the Lancaster County Conservancy.

As part of the project implementation, Lancaster Farmland Trust and the Lancaster County Conservancy will host a free breakfast and informational workshop for landowners in the Highlands region. Participants will learn about protecting theirland, benefits of preservation, and financial incentives for implementing best management practices. The workshop will be held on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at Shady Maple Restaurant, 129 Toddy Drive, East Earl, PA 17519. The breakfast begins at 8 a.m. followed by the program from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. To reserve a spot, please call Gayle McMichael at the Trust at 717-687-8484 by July 6th.