The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania and Delaware announced that it has closed on the purchase of 1,071 acres in Pennsylvania’s Shohola Township (Pike County), linking two state game lands to create a 43-mile corridor of protected lands. The new parcel was immediately transferred to the Pennsylvania Game Commission for addition to State Game Land 180.
The property, which lies downstream from Shohola Lake, includes more than a mile of frontage on Shohola Creek and six tributary streams. It also encompasses Bald Hill, a landscape that provides habitat for several plant and animal species of concern.
“The Nature Conservancy is excited to acquire this property, which features clean streams and threatened species that are increasingly vulnerable to climate change,” said Lori Brennan, executive director of The Nature Conservancy’s Pennsylvania and Delaware chapter. “This parcel creates a critical link between two forested tracts of protected lands that will help maintain migratory corridors and safeguard biodiversity here in the Central Appalachians.”
The Shohola acquisition connects the 3,024-acre State Game Land 116 to the north and the 11,400-acre State Game Land 180 to the south. The Pennsylvania Game Commission provided $2 million toward the $4 million purchase price. The new parcel will be open to the public.
“We are grateful for partners like The Nature Conservancy that do the heavy lifting to help bring tracts like this to the Game Commission in order to continue the Commonwealth’s conservation heritage,” said Dave Gustafson, director of the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management. “Protecting this property from future development will not only help the watershed, but also add to the biological, recreational and scenic values associated with the network of lands comprising State Game Land Nos. 180 and 116.”
Gustafson continued: “By placing this land into public ownership, the Game Commission has expanded the opportunities for both hunters and non-hunters to enjoy outdoor recreational pursuits such as hunting, hiking and bird watching. The Nature Conservancy continues to be an invaluable partner, and we thank them for facilitating this acquisition.”
The Shohola Creek project was made possible with financial support from two Open Space Institute funds: the Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund and the Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF).
Launched in 2014, the Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund is capitalized by the William Penn Foundation and has protected approximately 20,000 acres of forested land in the Delaware River Watershed. The forested land acts as a natural filter for clean water in the headwater streams of the Delaware River Watershed, which provides drinking water for approximately 15 million people, including residents of Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington and New York City.
Support for the project also included funding from the Open Space Institute’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund, capitalized by funders including the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the William Penn Foundation. The ALPF supports land protection along the Appalachian Mountain range, an area that is home to the world’s largest broadleaf forest, stores most of the nation’s forest carbon and provides an essential refuge and migration routes for plants and animals at risk of habitat loss from climate change.
“The Open Space Institute is exceptionally proud of its role in protecting Shohola Creek, which will provide public access and recreation while safeguarding critical water resources and unspoiled forests in the face of a changing climate,” said Bill Rawlyk, OSI’s Mid-Atlantic field coordinator. “We applaud our partners at The Nature Conservancy for their vision and commitment to protecting this important land.”
Additional donors and private supporters, including the Kentfields Foundation, also contributed to the Shohola acquisition. Pike County Commissioners, through the county’s Scenic Rural Character Preservation Program, provided $25,000 for this open space project.
This acquisition marks The Nature Conservancy’s second land protection project in Pike County; in 2017, it purchased and transferred 318 acres to the PA Bureau of Forestry, expanding the Delaware State Forest.
The Nature Conservancy, a private, non-profit global conservation organization, has protected more than 100,000 acres in Pennsylvania overall, including the Florence Shelly Preserve in Susquehanna County as well as the Tannersville Cranberry Bog and Long Pond Barrens in Monroe County. For more information, visit nature.org/Pennsylvania.