Natural Lands announced it has added 47 acres of land to William Penn State Forest in Berks County. Natural Lands purchased the property and then transferred ownership to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR) Bureau of Forestry. Once at risk of development, this land will now forever remain open space and accessible to visitors for recreation.
The property is in Alsace Township and immediately adjacent to the Bureau of Forestry’s Ruth Zimmerman Natural Area, to which it was added last week. The addition of the 47-acre tract more than doubles the Zimmerman Natural Area, bringing the total size to 80 acres.
“This property is among more than 700 acres that Natural Lands has helped add to the state forest system’s holdings, to date,” said Jack Stefferud, senior director of land protection for Natural Lands. “Rather than becoming a housing development, it will be managed by the Bureau of Forestry as a wild and natural area—places of scenic beauty and protected plant and animal communities. We are thrilled at this outcome.”
“Acquisitions to the William Penn State Forest are all special in their unique way,” said Richard Hartlieb, assistant district forester with the PA Forest Service. “This addition protects a unique ecosystem. It is one of the few places where you can see pin oak, swamp white oak, winterberry holly, and poison sumac growing together in their native habitat. We remain grateful to our conservation partners and landowners that have a long-term vision for our forested landscapes.”
In addition to forest and farmland, the property includes wetlands and Antietam Creek tributaries. These wetlands are home to a diversity of species, including some whose populations are in decline.
“It is great to know that this land will be preserved in perpetuity,” said former landowner Tom Nordhoy. “The variety of wildlife on the property—including songbirds—is extensive. It is truly a natural treasure which I hope will be enjoyed by all.”
The Highlands Conservation Act, a fund established to protect an almost unbroken band of forested hills running through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—including this portion of Berks County—provided funding for the project. It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I congratulate Natural Lands and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for conserving this important area,” said Colleen Sculley, assistant regional director for the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. “Protecting natural areas like this not only conserves critical habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife but also provides important access to nature for those visiting or living in the Highlands Region. We look forward to supporting many more conservation successes in the future.”
Additional funding came from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Partnership Program (C2P2) and the PA Bureau of Forestry.
“We are pleased to add this land to the William Penn Forest District and to expand the Zimmerman Natural Area,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “As the Commonwealth faces growing development pressures of our natural spaces, it is important to celebrate acquisitions of this type for the impact they have in preserving plant and wildlife habitat, as well as providing open spaces that are accessible for recreation. Thank you to Natural Lands for always being great partners in our efforts to preserve Pennsylvania’s natural resources for future generations.”
This post adapted from a release by Natural Lands.