Land Acquisitions Add More Than 16,000 Acres to Game Lands System

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday approved a purchase that will add nearly 13,000 acres to State Game Lands 25 in Jones Township, Elk County, which provides an opportunity to create more early-successional forestland habitat statewide that will benefit a variety of species.

The 12,911-acre acquisition is mainly forested with mixed northern hardwoods, with a small component of mixed conifers in locations, interspersed with forest openings. Streams and tributaries – many of them containing wild trout – as well as upland wetland areas, are located on the acquired tracts. These lands are bisected by U.S. Route 219, and have multiple access points from township roads. The acquisition is divided into three parcels, and while the eastern border of the eastern-most parcel borders State Game Lands 25, the property also adjoins Allegheny National Forest to the west.

The enormity of the acquisition can’t be understated, said William Capouillez, who directs the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management. It’s one of the biggest purchases in decades, and links one of the biggest game lands in the Commonwealth to the Allegheny National Forest – one of the largest forested public resources in the state.

With the acquisition, a huge contiguous block of protected habitat has been created, Capouillez said. But the deal does more than that, he said. Being able to provide the value from timber is an important part of the deal, Capouillez said. It will encourage greater timber harvest in other parts of the state, and the result will be the creation of more early-successional habitat, a component that is severely lacking throughout the state, he said.

“This is a commitment by the agency to increase our timber harvest and habitat creation on game lands through a partnership with The Conservation Fund,” Capouillez said.

The acquisition creates more than 20 square miles of additional game lands. Other land acquisitions approved by the board on Tuesday include:

  • More than 2,100 acres to state game lands in Jefferson County. Under the contract, the commission will purchase from Green Hills Land Co. LLC a 1,967-acre tract adjacent to State Game Lands 87 in Gaskill and Henderson townships, Jefferson County, as well as a 26-acre interior tract into State Game Lands 54 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County. Additionally, the commission will purchase from Hanak Limited Partnership more than 163 acres north of State Game Lands 195 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County. Again, the scale of the acquisition is notable, Capouillez said. It’s yet another addition to State Game Lands 87, which now tops 15,000 acres but just a few years ago was an 1,100-acre tract. Also, the acquisition creates a contiguous block westward to State Game Lands 195. “How often can you say you’ve connected two game lands?” Capouillez asked. More than 1,000 acres of the 1,967-acre tract is made up of northern hardwoods, while about 955 acres consist of shrub land and reverting fields associated with previous surface mining activity. Small wetlands and mining-related water impoundments also are present on the property. The 26-acre interior tract is forested with northern hardwoods, with ironwood, mountain laurel and grapes in the understory. The 163-acre parcel also is forested with northern hardwoods. The option price for the three properties is a $2.4 million lump sum, to be paid with funds from third-party commitments as compensation for habitat and recreational losses that occurred on state game lands from previously approved projects.
  • A nearly 54-acre tract in Springfield Township, Erie County, south of State Game Lands 314. The tract is forested mostly with northern hardwoods with an oak component, and there are at least three species of special concern plants on the property. In making the $47,525 lump sum purchase from Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Inc., the Game Commission has agreed no use of the surface for oil and gas exploration, production, removal or sale will be allowed. Funds for the purchase come from third-party commitments as compensation for habitat and recreational losses from previously approved projects on game lands. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is working in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire the property through funding available through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s Joint Venture Habitat Restoration and Protection grant program.
  • A tract of more than 81 acres adjacent to State Game Lands 311 in Benezette Township, Elk County. The property is being purchased from Richard and Michele Vollmer for $399,000 lump sum to be paid with funds from third-party commitments as compensation for habitat and recreational losses that occurred on state game lands from previously approved projects. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation also has pledged $100,000 toward the purchase of the property, which is a mixture of woodlots and shrub lands with grass fields. The property is located in the center of the range of the largest elk subpopulation in Pennsylvania, and creates a prime elk-viewing opportunity. Winslow Hill Road bisects the property. The Vollmers will retain the oil and gas rights on the property.
  • A more than 642-acre tract in Frankstown Township, Blair County, adjacent to State Game Lands 147. The option price is $1,150,000 to be funded by habitat mitigation commitments for impacts to state and federally listed species. The Eastern small-footed myotis, a Pennsylvania threatened species, and the Indiana bat, are the impetus for the mitigation funding. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must give its approval before the property can be purchased. The property is forested with about 72 percent in mixed oak and the remainder in mixed hardwoods. There are two forest openings on the property, each less than an acre in size, and several intermittent streams cross the property. The property is being sold by Paul Good.
  • A more than 175-acre tract in Athens and Smithfield townships, Bradford County, adjacent to State Game Lands 239. The option price is $451,000 and will be paid with funds from third-party commitments as compensation for habitat and recreational losses that occurred on state game lands from previously approved projects. About half of the property is comprised of mixed hardwoods with the remainder in grassland and reverting fields; some sections contain various evergreens originally planted to sell as Christmas trees. The property is being sold by Evergreen Land Development LLC, which will reserve the oil and gas rights.

Capouillez said the purchases approved Tuesday, when added to other lands newly approved to be acquired through other methods total nearly 18,000 acres, or 30 square miles. The acquisitions also represent an opportunity to create more early-successional forestland statewide, Capouillez noted.

Press release developed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.