Photo credit: Fred Valentine

Earlier in September, Governor Tom Wolf announced an ​historic investment of $90 million for more than 330 projects across Pennsylvania that will create new recreational opportunities, conserve natural resources, and help revitalize local communities, among them North Branch Land Trust. North Branch Land Trust (NBLT) received $816,000 toward a conservation easement on approximately 220 acres surrounding the Huntsville Reservoir in Dallas Borough and Lehman Township, Luzerne County for habitat protection. North Branch Land Trust’s mission is to conserve the working, natural, and scenic landscapes in Northeastern Pennsylvania that sustain us.

North Branch Land Trust is excited to work with Pennsylvania American Water to conserve the buffer lands around the Huntsville Reservoir while providing long-desired public access where appropriate. In accordance with North Branch Land Trust’s mission, this project will maintain the natural beauty of the area with limited improvements to include simple trails and access. Public access will be available in an area suited for walking and hiking.

Executive Director Ellen Ferretti states “The approximately 220 acres of conifer forest and wetland that envelopes the northern half of the Huntsville Reservoir present a unique opportunity for community and conservation benefits in our backyard. The Back Mountain community has long expressed a desire for conserving the beautiful lands around the reservoir, and North Branch Land Trust is thrilled to help bring that vision to life. Together, we can preserve and learn from this beautiful land.”

“Pennsylvania American Water is committed to being a steward of our environment and protecting our watersheds,” said Mike Doran, president of Pennsylvania American Water. “Preserving this land through our partnership with North Branch Land Trust helps further our mission to provide safe, clean drinking water for generations to come.”

Public access to the Huntsville Reservoir Trails will become an important and safe outdoor resource for the Back Mountain area. Recreation such as biking and walking are already popular on the roads along the Reservoir, but the lack of sidewalks make recreation dangerous. Public trails, open to foot traffic, will wind through the northwest section of the Huntsville Reservoir, hidden from public roads and private homes to provide opportunities for outdoor education and recreation.

The Huntsville Reservoir also offers opportunities for conservation around the reservoir and beyond. This project area will help to connect existing conserved lands in the region, amplifying the positive impact of preserved natural habitats and nature-based recreation. Conserving buffer lands around our drinking water reservoirs, not only greatly enhances the quality of this fresh water but also reduces risks of soil erosion, runoff pollution, and regional flooding.

This project was financed in part by a grant from the Community Conservation Partnership Program, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation. North Branch Land Trust expressed their gratitude to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania American Water, and the members of the community who have guided and supported this project and who support NBLT’s conservation mission for the benefit of their community and the natural resources they all dearly value.