Two struggling species received a boost recently when the North Branch Land Trust conserved 400 acres in Luzerne County.
As part of a mitigation project with Pennsy Supply Corp., the land trust conserved a 100-acre parcel in Dorrance Township that is home to Balliet Run, an exceptional-value stream that contains native brook trout.
The trust also partnered with Earth Conservancy to conserve 300 acres in Newport Township that contains habitat for the endangered Indiana bat. That parcel was also preserved as part of the Pennsy mitigation agreement, which came about after the company expanded its quarry.
Paul Lumia, NBLT executive director, said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service required Pennsy to mitigate the acreage from its quarry expansion because it was within a 10-mile radius of a Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory hit on the Indiana bat.
“Pennsy contacted wanting to know if we knew of any land within the Indiana bat habitat to conserve,” Lumia said.
The 100-acre site in Dorrance Township was already owned by Pennsy and the conservation easement, which means the property can never be developed. It is monitored by NBLT.
Lumia said his organization was interested in the tract because of the presence of native brook trout in Balliet Run. Native brook trout have been declining in Pennsylvania due to habitat loss.
The 300-acre parcel in Newport Township is owned by Earth Conservancy and is close to the location of the PNDI hit on the Indiana bat, Lumia said. The property also contains small caves which are used by bats, he said.
To preserve the parcel, Pennsy paid Earth Conservancy $1,000 per acre for the conservation easement, which is monitored by the land trust. Earth Conservancy still owns the property.
“Our strategic plan is to conserve a lot of these areas in Luzerne County that are threatened,” Lumia said. “These two sites were prime for conservation.”
Earth Conservancy president Mike Dziak said the Newport Township property is part of 2,000 acres that his organization owns in that area, and the land is enrolled in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s public access program to allow hunting.
“Our intention is to keep the top of that mountain green,” Dziak said.
Lumia said the land trust is actively pursuing other conservation projects in the county, including a 400-acre tract on Bald Mountain that contains the headwaters and tributaries to Mill Creek. The plan is to purchase the property and donate it to another land trust to monitor, Lumia said.
There are also plans to conserve more than 3,300 acres in Mocanaqua. The property is owned by Earth Conservancy and Lumia said the land trust is seeking a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to acquire the parcel.
If the purchase is made, Lumia said the land will be turned over to the Bureau of Forestry.