On November 12, the Wildlands Conservancy announced the permanent protection of approximately 2,700 high-conservation value acres that straddle Lausanne, Banks, and Packer Townships and Weatherly Borough, Carbon County and Foster and Hazle Townships, Luzerne County.
Known as the “Penrose Swamp Barrens,” Wildlands purchased the property with cooperation from the Estate of Pasco L. Schiavo and the consent of the Pasco L. Schiavo Charitable Trust for immediate transfer to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry, for the expansion of Weiser State Forest.
The permanent protection of these wetlands and forests are key for sustaining clean, healthy water for drinking, fishing, and recreation in surrounding reaches of the Lehigh River watershed.
These 2,700 acres protect a core Natural Heritage Area and an Important Bird Area, along with Penrose Creek and sections of Beaver and Hazle Creeks. They support several plant species of special concern.
“Penrose Swamp represents local natural assets that are precious and remaining within Lehigh River watershed, and its permanent protection speaks to the power of legacy partnerships and a shared vision for generations to come, “says Christopher Kocher, president of Wildlands Conservancy. “The creeks it boasts and species it protects readily make a strong case its preservation, and its benefits for water quality and communities connected to nature will deliver direct and lasting impacts for health, overall well-being, and quality of life.”
With the property now designated as state forest lands, the acquisition will expand locally accessible public lands and host a wide array of recreation opportunities that can be enjoyed in perpetuity by outdoor enthusiasts.
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said, “This acquisition represents an opportunity to protect our ecosystem and expand recreation opportunities in an area where DCNR sees a great need. We are grateful to have partners like the Wildlands Conservancy, which has worked to help preserve natural lands for nearly 50 years. The conservancy’s effort, its partnership with our friends at the Pocono Forests and Water Conservation Landscape, and cooperation with generous entities such as the Schiavo Charitable Trust are critical for the conservation and expansion of public lands.”
“Preservation of these forested lands will provide clean air, pure water, habitat for a wide range of species, carbon storage to help mitigate climate change, and abundant recreational opportunities that will remain for current and future generations. Partners like the Wildlands Conservancy help the bureau acquire key forested parcels that might not otherwise be preserved without collaboration,” says DCNR State Forester Ellen Shultzabarger.
Wildlands acknowledges the support of its giving community, especially the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, as well as the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, and the Open Space Institute – Appalachian Landscape Conservation Fund, which supports the protection of climate resilient lands for wildlife and communities and is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, for making the permanent protection of these 2,700 acres possible.
“The successful conservation of Penrose Swamp Barrens is a model victory for protecting the fragile forests of the Appalachian region in the face of development,” says Peter Howell, Executive Vice President for the Open Space Institute. “Safeguarding the forests that store carbon is a proven hedge against climate change and loss of biodiversity. We commend our partners the Wildlands Conservancy, the State of Pennsylvania, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, for securing the successful conservation of this irreplaceable property.”
Linda L. Schiavo, sister of, and Executrix of the Estate of Pasco L. Schiavo, said, “I am very excited that the Weatherly property my brother Pasco owned will expand Weiser State Forest. He strongly desired that that property be available to the public, and would be pleased to know that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be maintaining it as forest to be used by the people of the Hazleton and Weatherly areas for years to come.”