Michaux State Forest
Mountain bikers enjoying a ride through Michaux State Forest.
Pennsylvania’s Michaux State Forest covers more than 85,000 acres and is referred to as the state’s ”cradle of forestry.” The Fund helped grow Michaux SF to its current size with the purchase and transfer of a 2,500-acre expanse of forest, streams and open fields known as Tree Farm #1.
The property abuts the Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, serves as a buffer to the popular Appalachian Trail corridor and lies within the viewshed of Gettysburg National Military Park. It sits at the headwaters of much of western Adams County’s water supply and its protection will help provide clean air and water to county residents. Increased opportunities for hunting, fishing, biking, hiking, wildlife viewing and other forms of recreation, combined with on-site sustainable forest management by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), will provide a long-term boost to the local economy.
But the entire 2,500-acre property would likely have been developed if not for the local community and a group of conservation partners, including the Fund.
The Threat Of Development
Located just over an hour’s drive from Washington D.C., Tree Farm #1 provides Adams County residents with clean water and access to a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. But when the property was put on the market in late 2007, strong interest from potential buyers led to concern that it would sell quickly and be developed. Zoning would have allowed for the construction of approximately 500 homes on the land.
The loss of forestland for source water protection, and the potential cost of having to provide services for development on-site, caused concern among Hamiltonban and neighboring municipal officials. Many also felt that the property’s watershed, plant and animal habitat and recreational value made it unsuitable for development.
When the land went up for sale, concerned residents and local organizations needed to quickly raise funds to protect it. That’s when the Fund provided critical bridge financing, purchased the land and held it until financing became available.
Our effort began in March 2008, when we purchased the Tree Farm #1, or Mount Hope, property from Glatfelter Pulp Wood Company. For years, this was Glatfelter’s flagship property among thousands of acres of land holdings in the mid-Atlantic region. We transferred the property to the Pennsylvania DCNR for incorporation into Michaux State Forest in 2010.
Conservation of this land was made possible because of a two-year partnership involving federal, state and local governments; private organizations and the citizens of Adams County. The Pennsylvania DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry managed and patrolled the site during the Fund’s interim ownership. Former Sen. Arlen Specter, along with Sen. Bob Casey and former Rep. Todd Platts, supported this project in Congress and secured $3.5 million through the federal Forest Legacy program. Adams County provided $3.7 million from the Water & Land Protection Bond, which Adams County voters overwhelmingly passed in 2008. The commonwealth contributed $4 million through the Growing Greener II program and the Pittsburg-based Richard King Mellon Foundation provided $2 million. Contributions from local municipalities and private donations secured by the Land Conservancy of Adams County and The Nature Conservancy totaled more than $130,000.