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DCNR to add 17,000 acres to Elk State Forest in the Pennsylvania Wilds
Acting DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn has announced that the department is adding more than 17,000 acres of wooded land and waterways to the adjacent Elk State Forest with the acquisition of about a 27-square mile property in Norwich and Sergeant townships near the town of Clermont in southern McKean County.

The state invested $7.2 million to purchase the land, which came a fund from mitigation payments for rights-of-way and other transactions that is intended for the acquisition of new state forest lands. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, a non-profit organization that focuses on enhancing the region’s quality of life by protecting and restoring exceptional places, facilitated the purchase with additional funds from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

“This property will be open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational activities, expanding the tremendous recreational opportunities that attract visitors to the Pennsylvania Wilds every year who support the local economy through tourism,” Dunn said. “It will forever protect a number of high quality tributaries to the East Branch Clarion River and habitat for several species of concern, such as the timber rattlesnake.”

This is the largest land addition to the state forest system in 65 years.

The property was purchased from Forest Investment Associates (FIA). The company will retain the timber rights for 35 years and continue harvesting timber—supporting local forest management companies and sawmills—under an agreement that requires sustainable forest management practices.

The timber rights will revert to DCNR in the future, which will continue to ensure it is well-managed for the health of the forest and to support jobs that pay in the forest products industry.

“This property is magnificent, and is the largest acquisition in the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s history. We are excited to add it to the state forest system,” said WPC President and CEO Tom Saunders. “It has extensive forest and rich conservation values, and builds on the Conservancy’s legacy of protecting the region’s most important places. We also are so pleased that this brings the Conservancy’s land protection work to a quarter million acres.”

DCNR will now evaluate the property for additional opportunities for public access, trails and other forest recreation amenities.

The commonwealth compensates local governments on an annual basis as payment-in-lieu of taxes for public lands. This is meant to replace taxes that would have been generated if these land holdings were in private ownership. Conservation of these lands also will ensure that municipalities will not have to bear costs associated with development.

Pennsylvania has 2.2 million acres of state forest land managed for multiple purposes including protecting habitat for wildlife and native plants, and providing an array of public recreational opportunities such as hiking, hunting and wildlife watching. The well-managed state forests also provide a steady, continuous supply of quality timber to the market, supporting thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania’s wood products industries.

Elk State Forest derives its name from the great numbers of elk that once thrived in the area. Located mainly in Elk and Cameron counties, it now comprises more than 200,000 acres of northern hardwood forest. Today, visitors can once again see elk in the meadows and openings scattered throughout the state forest. The forest features the Elk Country Visitor Center and a portion of the Elk Scenic Drive.

The first purchase of land for the Elk State Forest was a 3,487-acre tract in Middle Jerry Run bought from D.R. Fullerton on May 31, 1900. Originally called Forest Reservations, these lands were purchased to re-establish a forest that had been nearly eliminated by cutting and burning.

The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 12-½ county conservation landscape helping to revitalize rural communities through sustainable tourism development and inspire a stewardship ethic in residents and visitors.

For information, visit the Pennsylvania Wilds or Elk State Forest web pages.

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May 6, 2015

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