The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association honored Adams County and Franklin Township (Chester County) with the 2011 Government Conservation Leadership Award at the 9th Annual Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference this past week for their demonstrated leadership in the conservation of our special landscapes and critical natural resources.
|From left to right: Commissioner George Weikert, Adams County; Andy Loza, Pennsylvania Land Trust Association; Pat Naugle, Land Conservancy of Adams County|
While support for land preservation in Adams County has been demonstrated by the Board of Commissioners for over twenty years – beginning with its participation in the Pennsylvania Farmland Protection Program – in the last few years the number of acres protected in Adams County has grown exponentially thanks to the willingness of the Commissioners to take action on a unique opportunity that arose in the fall of 2007.
At that time, the Glatfelter Pulpwood Company, based out of York County, decided to sell roughly 2,500 acres of woodland known as Glatfelter Tree Farm No. 1. Amid rumors of the property’s pending sale, the local township supervisors sought support for its preservation. The Adams County Board of Commissioners quickly became involved and requested that the company engage in a dialogue with the parties interested in preserving the land. This led to the eventual conservation of the property and a landmark $10 million county-wide conservation funding initiative.
With a daunting price tag of $12.5 million, purchasing the Tree Farm would require fundraising at many levels. Although nearly half of the needed funds had been pledged by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, it was clear that Adams County would have to step to the plate with a funding commitment of its own. The Commissioners agreed to place a $10 million bond referendum on the November 2008 ballot, which would fund land preservation and water resource protection throughout the county. Upon approval of the referendum, the Commissioners would contribute $3.7 million to the Tree Farm’s purchase. This committment provided the necessary leverage for The Conservation Fund to negotiate a sales agreement and close on the property with bridge funding.
The ballot initiative passed with overwhelming support (75% approval). Through additional local public and private fundraising, and the award of a $3.5 million U.S Forest Service Forest Legacy grant, the project was completed in early 2010 and the Tree Farm was incorporated into the adjacent Michaux State Forest.
While rather common in the eastern portion of Pennsylvania, no county west of the Susquehanna River has ever passed a successful conservation funding ballot initiative. The $3.7 million dedicated to the Tree Farm project represents the largest known county-level contribution to any conservation project in Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna. In addition to the 2,500 acres protected through the acquisition of the Tree Farm, the Green Space Grant Program has helped to preserve over 1,000 acres by providing $1.3 million towards conservation easement purchases. The grant program has provided a much-needed opportunity to preserve significant properties that are outside the purview of the farmland preservation program
|From left to right: Sherri Evans Stanton, Brandywine Conservancy; Bob Brechter, Franklin Township Open Space Committee; Teddy Price, Franklin Township; Phil Geoghegan, Franklin Township Open Space Committee; Molly Morrison, Natural Lands Trust; Jack Stefferud, Natural Lands Trust; and Nan Latimer, Franklin Township|
Franklin Township has successfully advanced conservation of natural resources through a proactive and carefully planned open space acquisition program. In just over five years, the township has increased preserved lands in the township from 419.4 acres to 1,653 acres (approximately 287 acres of which is open space set aside through the development process), an increase of 75%. The additional preserved land acquired over that time has increased the percentage of open space from 5% of the township’s total land area to 20%.
“We are thrilled to honor such strong partners at the local level, actively reinforcing and promoting the protection of their natural resources,” commented Andy Loza, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. “On behalf of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and the land conservation community, we thank the elected and appointed officials of Franklin Township and Adams County for their remarkable leadership and commitment to land preservation efforts in Pennsylvania.”
The awards were presented Friday, May 20th in conjunction with the 9th Annual Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. County Commissioner George Weikert accepted the award on behalf of Adams County. Accepting the award on behalf of Franklin Township will be Phil Geoghegan, former Chairman of the Township’s Open Space Committee, and a long-time catalyst for the township’s conservation success.