Citizens’ Voice: “Land Trust buys 3,000 acres in Luzerne County”
By Kent Jackson, Staff Writer
April 6, 2014
A Montgomery County preserve sat amid farms in 1943, but those farms had been replaced by homes in recent aerial photographs that Joe Vinton showed to the audience.
“This is basically the only open space,” he said while motioning to the greenery on the 2010 photo of the Gwynedd Preserve in Ambler.
“These trends aren’t going to stop in southeastern Pennsylvania,” Vinton, of the Natural Lands Trust, said.
The trust is based in southeast Pennsylvania, but has branched out to the northeast portion of the state, where there’s still undeveloped land. Vinton manages the Bear Creek Preserve for the trust.
All the green space around the 3,400 acres of the Bear Creek Preserve made the map of Luzerne County that Vinton displayed look much different than the current scene around the 279-acre Gwynedd Preserve.
On the map, a green swath from the Nescopeck State Park to Bear Creek denotes state parks, forests, game land and preserves that contain, perhaps, 10,000 acres of protected land, Vinton said.
That green space grew on Friday when the North Branch Land Trust announced it purchased 3,000 acres in the townships of Conyngham, Newport and Slocum with a $4 million state grant.
Meanwhile, on March 18, Vinton and representatives from four other groups that cooperate to preserve land in the Poconos and elsewhere in northeastern Pennsylvania described their mission at a public meeting organized by the Western Pocono Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Developers are buying and building on three acres for every one acre that the groups preserve, Vinton said.
Rylan Coker of the North Branch Land Trust said people donate land to keep it natural, especially if they are the last of a family that has owned the property for generations.
The North Branch trust was able to purchase 3,000 acres that it calls the Mocanaqua Tract because the Earth Conservancy agreed to sell the land for half its value.
A 15-mile trail loops through the property where forests support fishers, bobcats, northern goshawks and barred owls. The Susquehanna River wraps around the north and west edges of the property like a crescent.
To preserve a bog where cranberries and rare orchids grow at the Valmont Industrial Park, the North Branch trust benefited from a state grant and the cooperation of the park’s owner, CAN DO.
Coker said the North Branch trust arranges for tours once a year when the orchids are in bloom.
Most preserves are open to the public. Many contain trails for walking and scenic views. Some permit hunting.
Another trust, the Wildlands Conservancy, seeks to enhance lands. Christopher Kocher of the conservancy said volunteers have mowed areas and let goats graze, opening areas for rare golden-winged warblers.
Projects have reduced acid mine drainage flowing into tributaries of the Lehigh River. On the river, the Wildlands Trust leads a sojourn each summer for canoes and kayaks. All together, events drew 33,000 people to the preserves and taught them about the natural world last year, Kocher said.
“It’s about connecting people to the land,” said Kocher, who referred to books like “Last Child in the Woods” that discuss how much time children spend indoors. “We think it’s important to have stewardship instilled in the next generation.”