Sunday, February 2, 2014

Thousands Of Acres Added To PA Game Lands Across The State

Purchases 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.
          The nearly $12.2 million purchase does not include timber rights for many tree species on the property. The property’s seller, The Conservation Fund, will reserve the timber for 25 years with the right to harvest, cut, remove and otherwise manage and use all timber, except conifer, white oak, walnut and apple trees.
          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.
          The deal calls for payment to The Conservation Fund to be made either in one lump sum, or in not more than six annual installment payments. Under the agreement, the Game Commission may make the payments in cash, or transfer to The Conservation Fund timber revenue the commission generates on other state game lands tracts.
          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.

Pair donates more than 42 acres in Allegheny County.

          A land donation and two land transfers brought on by the issuance of right of way licenses have added more than 600 acres to the state game lands system.
          The board approved the actions at its meeting on Tuesday.
          Anthony Gagliardi and Carol Lund donated to the Game Commission a more than 42-acre tract in Springfield Township, Allegheny County. The tract, which is 16 miles southeast of State Game Lands 203, is comprised of mixed northern hardwoods, with the remainder in reverting old fields and small forest openings.
          Gagliardi and Lund will retain the oil and gas rights on the property, which is bisected by Crone Hollow Road, and can be accessed also from High Street.
          Meanwhile, the Game Commission acquired more than 650 acres in exchange for providing surface access to companies performing work above or below the surface.
          Iron Mountain Information Management LLC will convey to the Game Commission 278 acres in Cherry and Washington townships, Butler County. The property connects two parcels of State Game Lands 95.
          The property is mostly forested, with about 6 acres in shrub land and reverting old fields. Thirty acres of the property are agricultural lands, 20 acres of which is tillable.
          A tributary to the South Branch of the Slippery Rock Creek, and associated riparian areas, are on the property. The presence of the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, a Pennsylvania endangered species has been noted on the property.
          The property comes in exchange for rights that will allow Iron Mountain to construct two boreholes and a water pipeline in order to access and use the groundwater and void space located in a previously excavated limestone deep mine located beneath State Game Lands 95.
          Additionally, Consolidation Coal Co., also known as Consol, has agreed to convey to the Game Commission five properties totaling more than 215 acres.
          Two of the properties – one about 26 acres, the other more than 14 acres – are in Jackson Township, Greene County, adjacent to State Game Lands 179. The tracts are mostly forested with mixed hardwoods, and there also are reverting old fields.
          The other three properties adjoin State Game Lands 245. Two of the properties – a more than 5-acre indenture, and a more than 21-acre tract – are in Morris Township, Washington County. The smaller tract is forested with mixed hardwoods and there’s a 1-acre open field. The larger tract includes 17 acres of woodland in pole-size timber, 2 acres in tillable agricultural fields, and 2 acres in grassland.
          The land conveyed by Consol is in exchange for rights of way across State Game Lands 179 for 69 kV electric transmission line, and across State Game Lands 245 for a 16-inch water pipeline. The value of the land offsets the value of 12 years of right-of-way license fees for the transmission lines, and 25 years of license fees for the water pipeline.

Game Commission getting 246 acres in Blair County.

          The Game Commission will exchange timber it had offered for sale for a more than 246-acre tract that is an interior into State Game Lands 198 in Blair County.
          The Board of Game Commissioners approved the deal on Tuesday.
          The timber is associated with the “Blue Knob Removal” timber sale in Blair and Bedford counties, located on State Game Lands 26. The “Blue Knob Removal” sale involves three blocks of timber. Two blocks will be credited against the entire value of the land exchanged, with the remaining block to be purchased for more than $90,622 by E&E Logging and Sons Timber.
          The property being conveyed is forested with mixed oak, maple and birch and currently is being timbered by E&E Logging, creating early-successional forestland.
          Acquiring the tract will provide better access to existing portions of State Game Lands 198.

Former school building to become new Southcentral Region Office.

          William Capouillez, the director of the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management, on Tuesday announced the commission purchased properties at auction in 2013 that will be added to the state game lands system.
          Pennsylvania Code authorizes land purchases at auction and requires purchases be made known to the general public at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
          The commission in October purchased three tracts totaling nearly 144 acres in Frankstown Township, Blair County, paying for the land with escrowed funds totaling $294,000. The funds come from a prior land exchange with Penn State University on State Game Lands 176.
          The tracts purchased at auction are adjacent to State Game Lands 147 and are within 5 miles of the Hartman Mine Hibernacula, which is known to be used by Indiana bats, a state and federally listed endangered species. The tracts are forested with mixed hardwoods with an understory of witch hazel at higher elevations.
          The Game Commission also purchased at auction a 27,000-square-foot school building in Huntingdon County that it plans to turn into a new headquarters for the Southcentral Region.
          The property sits on 9 acres in Brady Township, Huntingdon County, and is known as the Brady Henderson Elementary School property.
          The property was purchased for $200,000 as the result of an auction scheduled to occur on June 15.

A reduction in propagation area buffer zones is warranted.

          The Board of Game Commissioners approved changing the boundaries for propagation areas at two state game lands in Butler County.
          The boundary changes will reduce the size of the propagation areas the Game Commission has determined no longer need to be so big.
          Propagation Area 108 at Moraine Cooperative Management Area 406 will be reduced from 386 to 161 acres. The area was established as a waterfowl propagation area through cooperation between the Game Commission and Moraine State Park. The initial focus was to provide a resting and nesting area for geese. Given their population increases, though, geese have become a nuisance issue at the park.
          The change in boundary will increase public access, while maintaining a buffer for migrating waterfowl, especially ducks. The new boundary also is more user-friendly because it is established along roads, field edges and already-cleared portions of the existing boundary line.
          Meanwhile, Propagation Area 111 on State Game Lands 95 will be reduced from 308 to 201 acres. The area initially was established as a stopover and resting habitat for waterfowl, mainly geese.
          The reduction will maintain a buffer around the lake to prevent harassment of nesting waterfowl, while opening access on 107 additional acres that previously were restricted.
          The new boundary at this area also will be easier to identify because most of it will run along roads and field edges as opposed to running through wooded areas.

Oil and gas reserve to be developed beneath portion of State Game Lands 298.

          The Board of Game Commissioners Tuesday approved a deal that will allow for the development of the commissions’ oil and gas reserve under State Game Lands 298 in Eldred and Gamble townships, Lycoming County. The development will be conducted with no surface impact to the game lands. 
          Two bids were received in November 2013, but one company later withdrew the bid. With the bid offered by FyreRok Reservoir Consulting withdrawn, the board approved the bid submitted by the only other bidder, Inflection Energy LLC, of Denver, Colo.

          Inflection has agreed to pay the commission 20 percent in royalties from the oil, gas and liquid hydrocarbons produced and sold from under the tract. Inflection also will pay the commission a one-time bonus payment of $4,560,840

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