Wildlands Conservancy recently protected approximately 500 critical acres situated near the headwaters of the Lehigh River, an area that supports drinking water for 180,000 local residents.

The wooded property, known locally as “Klondike,” contains several miles of the Lehigh River and more than 200 acres of special wetlands. The parcel was immediately transferred to the Game Commission to expand State Game Lands 312, which Wildlands and partners protected in 1991.

“The Klondike property has long been the highest-rated property for preservation in the upper Lehigh River watershed,” said Wildlands President Chris Kocher.  “The beauty of this natural place makes a strong case for its protection. It cradles the slim, blue ribbon that swells to become our mighty Lehigh – the same water hundreds of thousands use for drinking, recreation, fishing and boating. This property will provide many benefits, including clean, abundant water, high quality natural habitat and recreational lands for generations to come.”

Enabling the protection of the Klondike property and similar vast bands of water-cleaning forests is one of the objectives of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, an unprecedented collaboration across four states for clean, healthy water, for the ultimate protection of the Delaware River.

In 2014, the William Penn Foundation tapped Wildlands to spearhead the DRWI initiative in the Upper Lehigh, where the land-trust aggregates findings from stream assessments, water-quality monitoring and inventories of protected and developed lands to identify the most important lands for ensuring clean water.
Wildlands has a target to protect an additional 5,000 acres in this geography in the next three to six years in collaboration with its partners: Audubon Pennsylvania, Natural Lands, North Branch Land Trust, North Pocono Care, The Nature Conservancy-Pennsylvania, and Pocono Heritage Land Trust.

Wildlands acknowledges the support of its giving community, especially the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Game Commission, the Palmerton Natural Resource Trustee Council, the Open Space Institute, and the William Penn Foundation. Also notable are generous contributions from sportsmen’s groups including Hokendauqua Trout Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation (Pennsylvania, Walking Purchase, and Jerry Zimmerman chapters), Northampton County Federation of Sportsmen, and the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society, along with private donations.