Conservation Milestone Reached
October 18, 2005
Harrisburg, Pa (October 10, 2005) – Today marks a major milestone in land conservation in Pennsylvania and an outstanding example of “smart growth” development for the nation.
A for-profit real estate company, Appalachian Land & Conservation Services Co., LLC (www.appalachianland.us), has donated to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources conservation easements on 250 acres adjacent to both Bald Eagle State Park and State Game Lands 323 in Centre County (Howard Township). The donation of another conservation easement on an additional 99-acre parcel adjoining the park and State Game Lands is planned pending resolution of an access issue.
Praise from the conservation community, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the timber industry for the donation was swift and unanimous:
"The donation of these conservation easements protects the view from Bald Eagle State Park for all of our citizens to enjoy, without any required expenditure of state dollars," Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Michael DiBerardinis said. "We consider the lands that adjoin our state parks and forests very important for conservation and habitat protection, and we thank Appalachian Land & Conservation Services for their generous donation to the Commonwealth."
The protected land maintains approximately three miles of frontage on the 6,000-acre park, and is nearly all of the remaining private land sandwiched between the park and the 2,500-acre State Game Lands 323, which runs along Bald Eagle Mountain. The protected properties form a substantial portion of the park’s viewshed visible from the 1,730-acre Sayer’s Lake, which is the park’s centerpiece.
Audubon Pennsylvania’s Executive Director, Tim Schaeffer, noted that what happens on private land can impact public lands: "Bald Eagle Ridge is a critical flyway for migrating birds of prey -- including Golden Eagles, Northern Goshawks, and Red-tailed Hawks -- and is one of Pennsylvania's 82 Important Bird Areas. In addition, Bald Eagle State Park is a birder’s paradise. This donation by Appalachian Land & Conservation Services to DCNR is a wonderful statement about how development can be done responsibly and with wildlife needs in mind. Audubon commends this company for their outstanding action, and we hope that others follow where they are leading."
Appalachian was also successful in facilitating the commitment to donate a conservation easement by the other private landowner on an adjoining 115-acre property. That land is also unzoned, sandwiched between the park and the Game Lands, and adjoins existing public water and a planned public sewer connection.
All of the land is unzoned, meaning that any sort of development – residential, recreational, or commercial – could have occurred. Building lots with scenic views over lakes and other water bodies are in demand, especially in the rapidly growing State College real estate market. Therefore, a significant impact on the park’s viewshed and watershed was averted. By allowing only a handful of homes on hundreds of acres, the donation also averts major impacts, encroachments and the imposition of safety zones by many landowners on the adjoining Game Lands.
Marci Mowery, president of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation said “The lands surrounding Pennsylvania’s beautiful state parks are an increasing magnet for development. Unfortunately, there is not enough money to purchase all of the land necessary to effectively buffer our parks. Fortunately, charity-minded individuals and companies like ALCS exist and these donated conservation easements are a prime example. ALCS has done a wonderful thing at Bald Eagle State Park and I salute and thank them for their generosity and help in protecting the viewshed surrounding the third largest lake in the Pennsylvania Park system.”
These donated development rights mark the first time that DCNR has accepted a conservation easement, with significant implications for future land protection efforts in the Commonwealth, because some areas of Pennsylvania are not yet served by non-profit land trusts, which would naturally be inclined to hold conservation easements. This transaction also marks the first time that a for-profit real estate development company has actively pursued the acquisition of sensitive and highly valuable development land with the intention of protecting it.
Five parcels from four different owners were acquired over an 18-month period with the express intention of preserving the scenic properties from over-development. The conservation easements allow one large home, a barn, and two outbuildings to be built on each parcel. A pond, pool, horse riding ring, and tennis courts may also be built on each parcel, but they must be clustered together. The parcels are 18, 35, 39, 99, and 160 acres in size. Appalachian did not subdivide these heavily forested properties, and no subdivision may ever occur.
The conservation easements, which are perpetual and run with the deed irrespective of who owns the properties, require commercial forestry on each parcel according to best management practices. The forests are on a 100-year rotation and require management at 20-year intervals.
Paul Lyskava, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association, said "The Pennsylvania Forest Products Association welcomes this kind of private sector-led conservation of forested open space. The essence of the agreement maintains the land in private ownership while protecting it from future development and providing a guarantee that it will continue to be managed for the sustainable yield of timber and forest products.” He concluded, “ALCS has provided a common-sense approach that minimizes government involvement, respects property owner rights, ensures future forests, and provides a critical on-going supply of timber to our industry, thus supporting the state's rural economy."
Appalachian Land & Conservation Services is pioneering the confluence of capitalism and conservation. The company’s approach is based on the premise that open land is the Earth’s natural capital; it is an endowment for the future that must be used carefully in the present. This approach is a unique and unprecedented method for protecting open space. It is made necessary because land trusts are chronically under-funded, and new and creative methods are needed to bolster and advance open space and natural lands protection.
Andy Loza, Executive Director of the PA Land Trust Association, said, “Appalachian demonstrates the power of private conservation tools and the modest tax benefits available for charitable conservation donations. Everyone wins. The public gets important scenic and wildlife areas protected. Private landowners retain land ownership. Sustainable forestry ensures a stable timber supply. The developer makes a profit. I congratulate Appalachian on its thoughtful approach to conservation and making money.”
Appalachian’s president and CEO, Josh First, said “Bald Eagle State Park is a special place, and like all of Pennsylvania’s rugged, wide-open special places it is evocative of our nation’s frontier and symbolic of our Yankee spirit. Preserving places like this as cultural touchstones is important. We will make a good profit when we sell these lands, not a killing, and a good profit is good enough.” First concluded, “Smart growth development and donating conservation easements make good business sense. When conservation pays, it creates incentives to do the right thing. While we currently have the field to ourselves, we’d welcome competition.”
Centre County is home to State College and Penn State University (University Park), and is rapidly growing. Bald Eagle State Park is just three minutes from the interchange of interstate highways I-99 and I-80, and takes about 20 minutes to reach from State College. Bald Eagle Creek, a high quality trout stream, runs into the park below the properties, and the Centre County Greenway runs past the properties at the foot of the mountain.
“The conservation easements provided by ALCS represent the use of smart-growth planning that other companies in the land development business would do well to use as an example,” said state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre. “This arrangement will preserve the beautiful scenery found in and around Bald Eagle State Park, protect habitat for area wildlife, reduce stress on local watersheds, and safeguard hundreds of acres from inappropriate or harmful zoning decisions in the future,” he said.
Due to the properties’ proximity to the village of Mount Eagle, their location on Bald Eagle Mountain, and their scenic views over Sayer’s Lake at Bald Eagle State Park (formerly called Bald Eagle’s Nest by local Indians), the parcels are being marketed together as “Eagle View” and are listed by WarMark Realty in Centre County (814 632-3101).
Appalachian is actively pursuing other significant land acquisitions in central Pennsylvania in order to implement the same kind of vision and conservation benefits as were achieved at the Bald Eagle State Park project. The mission of Appalachian Land & Conservation Services Co., LLC, is to advance conservation goals and values by protecting working landscapes and environmental quality through the use of private markets and innovative real estate transactions. Additionally, in its consulting capacity Appalachian provides outstanding value to its non-profit and corporate clients in the areas of real estate consultation, project planning, project development, project-specific fundraising, and environmental and agricultural policy and regulation.
For further information contact Josh First, Appalachian Land & Conservation Services Co., LLC (717) 232-8335 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Christina Novak at DCNR (717) 772-9101 or email@example.com.