ClearWater Conservancy and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR), Bureau of Forestry have partnered to add 1,271 acres of land in Huntingdon and Centre Counties to Rothrock State Forest. ClearWater Conservancy acquired the land, formerly owned by Dry Hollow Hunting Club, then transferred the property to the Bureau of Forestry to be added to Rothrock State Forest where it will be permanently conserved and accessible to the public. “Never has the value of our state forest system shined brighter than during these most trying times and DCNR is proud to partner with Clearwater Conservancy in this addition to Rothrock that brings so much to so many,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “State forest visitors have gained a new appreciation of their surroundings during the pandemic and in these 1,271 acres there are so many features to be enjoyed by those who will come — the hunters, hikers, local historians and others.”
The land is located in Ferguson, Halfmoon, and Warriors Mark Townships, with 905 of the total 1,271 acres falling within Warriors Mark Township, Huntingdon County. This property will be the first publicly accessible land in the township.
“Seldom in the Central Region of Pennsylvania does the opportunity arise where a continuous property of this acreage becomes accessible for preservation of public use,” said Peter Leese, Warriors Mark Township Board of Supervisors. “This property could have easily been turned into a housing development requiring new schools, roads and related infrastructure. Taxpayers have been given a huge reprieve.”
The land is sometimes referred to as “Scotia West” due to its close proximity to the Scotia Barrens, a unique woodland habitat that contains the largest remaining patch of pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in Pennsylvania.
“Those who step onto the property will notice right away that its terrain and vegetation is very different from the typically steep and rocky terrain of Rothrock Forest,” said Deb Nardone, executive director of ClearWater Conservancy. “It’s hardwoods forests, rolling hills and vernal pools are sure to excite all who explore this property.
The Dry Hollow property is located within a landscape that supports twenty-six species of special concern in Pennsylvania. Vernal (or seasonal) pools, which are dry part of the year and cannot support fish, are also found on the property, providing safe places for salamanders and frogs to breed and lay eggs. The area has been identified as a Biological Diversity Area by the Centre county Natural Heritage Inventory.
“Having partnered with Clearwater Conservancy for the last decade and a half, the District is excited to have worked with them once again to conserve this important forested acreage and have it added to the state forest system,” said Mark Potter, Forest District Manager for the Rothrock State Forest. “Opportunities to secure large tracts of unfragmented forest within the landscape of Rothrock State Forest with such high conservation value and opportunity for the public are minimal, so it is great to see this acquisition end successfully.”
The District Manager asks the public that may want to venture out and begin to explore this new area of the Rothrock State Forest, to please be courteous and respectful of the adjacent private landowners and to bear with the District as it works to create suitable public access points, clearly mark the new state forest boundary, and develop recreational opportunities on the tract. The new addition to Rothrock State Forest will be of interest to a variety of outdoor enthusiasts, including hunters, hikers and local historians. Throughout the 1800’s this area was explored for iron ore by entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie. Remnants from that exploration such as an old railway can still be seen today.
In addition to the vital habitat and historical features that sit atop the property, below the surface lies a large groundwater recharge area that contributes to the region’s drinking water supplies and supports some of the best trout fishing in the country as it flows toward Spruce Creek. The land is now under management of Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Forestry as part of Rothrock State Forest and will be managed under the guidance of the State Forest Resource Management Plan. The property was acquired by ClearWater Conservancy for $3.65 million through a purchase made possible by a network of partners including PA DCNR and philanthropic foundations, including the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
“For more than 70 years, the Richard King Mellon Foundation has protected critical habitat in Pennsylvania and across the nation,” said Sam Reiman, Director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. “This is a landscape with important ecological values, and its protection reflects our ongoing commitment to conserving forestland in the Commonwealth, while opening those lands to the public for hunting, angling, hiking, and other outdoor activities.”
The acquisition was a key component to ClearWater Conservancy’s decades-long and ongoing strategy to “connect working lands, both farm and woods, to sustain our rural communities while providing places for nature and people to thrive.”