On August 22, 2023, WeConservePA, Lancaster Conservancy, and State Senators Scott Martin and Kristen Phillips-Hill co-hosted a multi-site tour of the Susquehanna Riverlands, focusing on lands in the Hellam Hills Conservation Area. Additionally, the tour included numerous guests: York and Lancaster County based Representatives Bryan Cutler, Wendy Fink, Joe D’Orsie, Brett Miller, and Tom Jones; staff from Representative Steve Mentzer’s office; York County Commissioner Doug Hoke; and WeConservePA Advocacy Manager Brad Barkdoll.


The first stop on the tour was the area historically known as Roundtop. Lancaster Conservancy is in the process of acquiring over 300 acres of beautiful forested land along the Susquehanna River in York County, with acquisition costs exceeding $4 million. An important land protection target for the conservancy, the acquisition and protection of Roundtop will aid in the health of the Susquehanna River and the local steam that provides critical habitat for native fish, plants, and other animals. Protection of these critical habitats will be complemented by the conservation of the forested land on site, leading to preserved riparian buffers that act as natural filters and erosion prevention infrastructure in times of major flooding events. In addition to the natural benefits, the acquisition of the property will link a continuing landscape of protected lands and trails for hikers in an already sprawling conservation landscape.

Wizard Ranch

The 247-acre Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve, also part of the Hellam Hills Conservation Area, was the next stop. Acquired in 2019, funding for the acquisition was provided through a combination of DCNR money, a grant from The Conservation Fund, and the Pine Tree Conservation Society. Home to 182 plant species, 97 bird species, 12 species of Herpetofauna, and a plethora of mammals, Wizard Ranch serves as a sanctuary of biodiversity. Adjoining the natural benefits of biodiversity, outdoor recreation and public access, the preserve continues to be home of the “Wizard Safari”, a recurring Boy Scout gathering that hosts thousands of scouts and their families on the grounds. Additionally, Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve continues to be a hot spot for outdoor recreation, as it is home to miles of hiking trails open to the public.

Cuffs Run

The tour concluded at the Zimmerman Center for Heritage, otherwise known as the headquarters of the Susquehanna Heritage Area. Aboard the Chief Uncas, an electric powered boat, staff from the Heritage Area detailed the importance of conserving and protecting the natural landscape of the Heritage Area. Cuffs Run, which lies just down the river from the Zimmerman Center, is an area threatened by the development of a hydro-electric storage facility, whose development would result in the displacement of over 20 families, destroy the landscape and habitats of the region, and impact the natural beauty of the Heritage Area. Opposition to the project was expressed by all legislators on the tour, citing the above reasons and the fact the generated electricity wouldn’t be provided to York or Lancaster County residents.