by Brad Barkdoll, WeConservePA Advocacy Manager
On August 2, 2023, the North Branch Land Trust, Earth Conservancy, and WeConservePA co-hosted a site visit to two major conservation projects in Luzerne County. In addition to organizational staff and affiliates, the site visit included attendance from Senator Lisa Baker, Representative Jim Haddock, Hanover Township Manager Samuel Guesto, staff from Senator Flynn’s office, Christine Dettore from the DCNR Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Nicholas Lylo from the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, and various staff members from Pennsylvania American Water Company (PAWC).
The first project was the Huntsville Reservoir Conservation Easement. North Branch Land Trust will acquire a 220-acre conservation easement on lands around the Huntsville Reservoir in Dallas Borough and Lehman Township. The conservation of this land will protect an existing greenway in a heavily developed area, protect drinking water quality and stream tributaries, and will provide safe public recreation opportunities for local communities. The Huntsville Reservoir is a high-quality water source that supplies drinking water to 14 municipalities in Luzerne County with a serviced population of approximately 30,000 people. With this conservation easement, the project area will receive the highest degree of conservation protection and prevent permanent structures from being built in the flood plain and buffer zone. Limited public access trails and parking will be constructed of porous materials that will increase and maintain permeability as part of green stormwater management and promote the aesthetics of native flora and landscapes. Funding assistance has been provided by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Environmental Stewardship Fund, and a generous donation from PAWC. This project also recently received American Rescue Plan Act funds from Luzerne County.
Espy Run Stream/Hanover Reservoir
The next was the Espy Run Stream/Hanover Reservoir project. Earth Conservancy and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry, are finalizing the purchase of 1,400 acres in Hanover and Newport Townships known as Wilkes-Barre Mountain, which includes the Hanover Reservoir. Under the stewardship of the Bureau of Forestry, Little Wilkes-Barre Mountain will officially join the Pinchot State Forest system and provide natural connectivity, resource protection, and outdoor recreation opportunities to the community. These acres add significantly to the existing greenway corridor along the Penobscot Mountain ridgetop and help connect the Bureau of Forestry lands at Mocanaqua and Arbutus Peak. The project area also adds to a greenway corridor that spans approximately eighty miles from Luzerne and Carbon Counties to Pike County and the Delaware River to protect habitat and threatened/endangered species, including the Indiana Bat and the Northern Long-eared Bat, a cold-water fishery, and scenic mountain highlands. Funding assistance has been provided by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, Environmental Stewardship Fund, and generous donations from Earth Conservancy.