Natural Lands announced the addition of 158 acres of land to Pennsylvania Game Lands in Lebanon and Lancaster Counties. The property is a forested refuge for wildlife and is now forever protected from development. 

“Natural Lands is thrilled to have the opportunity to preserve this forest habitat, and to partner in making this land available for hikers, birders, and other nature lovers,” said Todd Sampsell, Natural Lands vice president of conservation. “As a nonprofit organization, Natural Lands is able to apply for funding grants that aren’t available to the Game Commission. We have a long history of partnering with the state agencies that care for Pennsylvania’s parks and game lands to purchase land and transfer ownership to them. It’s been an incredibly effective method of saving open space.” 

Scarlet Tanager, photo by Bill Moses

The property is entirely forested and directly adjacent to the 2,816-acre State Game Lands No. 145. The property provides refuge for songbirds like Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush, and several species of warblers that spend winters in warmer climes but use large, connected forests in our region as their breeding grounds. Many of these migrant species have declined because the woods they rely on are disappearing or being subdivided. Forests that are fragmented into smaller plots by roads and developments favor predators that thrive along the edge of the woods, such as raccoons, snakes, Blue Jays, domestic cats, and Brown-headed Cowbirds. 

In addition to providing habitat for wildlife, the wooded property is home to three plant species designated by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as “threatened” and one listed as a species “of special concern.”  

The addition of the property to Game Lands #145 will benefit outdoor recreation opportunities by expanding the Game Lands’ boundary and enhancing its availability for hunting, hiking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and bird watching. 

The Horse-Shoe trail— which stretches 140 miles from Valley Forge National Historical Park to the Appalachian Trail northeast of Harrisburg—traverses the border between the property and the Game Lands. With the transfer of this land to the Game Commission, the trail corridor is permanently protected as are its scenic views.  

“Once again Natural Lands has stepped up and done the difficult work to help bring important tracts like these to the Game Commission to conserve for wildlife and the citizens of Pennsylvania. Their work in securing funding means that this tract comes to the PGC with no net cost to the Agency,” said Game Commission Wildlife Habitat Management Director Dave Gustafson. “This particular tract secures additional acreage in a key ecosystem and ensures that development will not encroach on the existing Game Lands. By adding it, we can better protect the integrity of the game lands and the habitat conservation efforts we are undertaking. Natural Lands continues to be an invaluable partner to the Game Commissions conservation efforts, and we thank them for this donation.” 

Natural Lands has added more than 650 acres of land to date to the PA Game Commission’s holdings.  

The federal Highlands Conservation Act—a fund established to protect an almost unbroken band of forested hills running through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—provided funding for this preservation project. Additional support came from Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – Bureau of Recreation and Conservation’s Community Conservation Partnership Program. 

Natural Lands is dedicated to preserving and nurturing nature’s wonders while creating opportunities for joy and discovery in the outdoors for everyone.  As the Greater Philadelphia region’s oldest and largest land conservation organization, Natural Lands—which is member supported—has preserved more than 125,000 acres, including 42 nature preserves and one public garden totaling more than 23,000 acres. Nearly five million people live within five miles of land under the organization’s protection. Land for life, nature for all.