April 30, 2019

Brookfield Renewable Donates 435 Acres in York & Lancaster Counties to the Lancaster Conservancy Completing a Decades-Long Public Private Partnership Effort to Protect 1800 Acres of Utility Land within the Susquehanna Riverlands

This release was distributed by the Lancaster County Conservancy and published here with permission.

Lancaster, PA – The Lancaster Conservancy (“the Conservancy”) announces the donation of 435 acres of forested land in York and Lancaster Counties from Brookfield Renewable, completing a federally-recognized large landscape public private preservation project.

Over 20 years ago, an ambitious effort began to protect the Susquehanna Riverlands, a state-designated conservation landscape encompassing the wooded gorge between York and Lancaster Counties. This land protection journey began with a 1990s study funded by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and The Conservation Fund. By 2007 a public private partnership was formed with leadership from DCNR and a core group of partners including The Conservation Fund, the Conservancy, Lancaster County, York County, and Susquehanna Heritage.

Working to protect over 40 tracts of land in two counties with multiple funders, this effort expanded engaging national, state, and local governments, non-profits, businesses and other private partners to complete this $12 million, 12 year project to protect this incredible forested landscape and the nearly 27 miles of streams that pass through it before entering the Susquehanna River. “Looking back over more than two decades of funding and planning commitment, DCNR is justifiably proud to be a partner in this noble effort to protect the Susquehanna Riverlands,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “While all our conservation landscapes are unique, these properties represent some of the most beautiful acres in the Riverlands. With their beautiful wooded streams and other critical water resources, and recreational opportunities, these properties are natural gems in the York-Lancaster area.”

“The Susquehanna Riverlands is an iconic Pennsylvania landscape with deep ties to the industrial history and Native American heritage of our country,” said Kyle Shenk, Pennsylvania State Director of The Conservation Fund. “The protection of these lands helps secure the recreational assets of the region and bolster the local economy. It has been an honor for The Conservation Fund, with support from the Lenfest Foundation, to work with the dedicated group of partners to achieve this vision.”

Earlier this month Brookfield Renewable donated the final 435 acres (comprising 8 tracts valued at over $2.8 million) to the Conservancy. With Brookfield Renewable’s donation this landmark, nationally-recognized transfer of utility lands came to its conclusion, resulting in permanent protection for public use of over 1,800 acres of what had historically been private utility lands within the Susquehanna Riverlands. Brookfield Renewable Director of Stakeholder Relations Andy Davis said, “As a company which prides itself on being excellent stewards of the environment while continuing to generate clean, renewable energy for all Pennsylvanians, we are proud to have helped carry this long running project to completion. We especially cherish the partnership we have built with the Lancaster Conservancy, who will immediately preserve this property for all to enjoy.”

The process of protecting the landscape continues with additional private public partnerships as the Conservancy leveraged the donated Brookfield Renewable lands to protect an additional 183 acres in Lancaster and York Counties. “This historic conservation of natural lands will help improve air and water quality, benefit native plants and animals, and provide quality of life and recreational benefits for generations to come,” said Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman. The resultant 2,000+ acres flowing from this incredible project are already providing Central PA residents with increased opportunities to recreate and enjoy wildlife. “On behalf of 450,000 York Countians, we are thrilled and grateful to have these beautiful acres in which we can recreate, breathe clean air, and enjoy the wonders of nature,” says York County Commissioner Susan Byrnes.

This public private project is a great example of the goals outlined by the Governor’s Restore PA mission to mitigate flooding. Forests naturally retain rainwater, preventing extreme run-off and reducing flood damage. Conservative estimates project that keeping the 2,000+ acres protected by this project forested saves 44 million gallons of water which would otherwise cause severe flooding issues and impacts to infrastructure. “With so-called ‘100-year-storms’ seemingly becoming an annual occurrence, the importance of natural forests in lessening damage is being demonstrated again and again,” DCNR Secretary Dunn said. “That’s why DCNR has embraced statewide buffer plantings along waterways. That’s also why DCNR strongly supports Gov. Wolf’s ‘Restore Pennsylvania’ proposal, which would dedicate funding to combat flooding and improve state park and forest infrastructure.”

On Tuesday, April 30th at Pinnacle Overlook Scenic Nature Preserve, the partners who worked on this nationally-recognized project met to look back upon their successes at the same location where it all started with a kick-off celebration over 12 years ago. The funding partners – DCNR, The Conservation Fund, Brookfield Renewable, the Conservancy, the Counties of York and Lancaster, Lenfest Foundation, and others who have worked so hard on this project – were all there to celebrate completion of the transfers and protection of these critical utility lands, and their continuing work to protect and enhance the Susquehanna Riverlands.

“Our partners had a vision for the lower Susquehanna, and the Conservancy is proud to play a role in this groundbreaking, precedent-setting project, helping pave the way to preservation of our historic landscape,” said Phi Wenger, President & CEO of the Conservancy. “This beautiful landscape requires our continued diligence in order to protect what forest remains for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Philip R. Wenger | Lancaster County Conservancy | (717) 392-7891 ext. 205