The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Monday added seven square miles to its state game lands including one of the biggest purchases in half a century.
The Game Commission recently approved an agreement with PPL Electric Utilities Corp. to provide right-of-way licenses to construct electric transmission facilities across six state game lands – SGLs 38, 91, 135, 183, 300 and 312 – in five northeastern counties: Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Wayne. In exchange for the habitat and surface damages on the roughly 270 SGL acres that will be impacted, the Board of Game Commissioners has agreed to accept 3,393 acres from Blue Ridge Real Estate Company, Blakeslee, that will be purchased with funding provided by PPL for its right-of-way licenses.
An additional 291 acres being acquired from Blue Ridge Real Estate will be paid with funds from third-party commitments for habitat and recreational loss compensation that occurred on state game lands in other previously approved projects. The land acquired by the PGC is adjacent to or near SGL 91 in Luzerne County’s Bear Creek and Buck townships.
One land purchase, in the heart of the Poconos, was the agency’s largest land acquisition in Luzerne County in more than 50 years.
“These tracts, when coupled with other existing state and conservation lands, create one of the largest contiguous wild lands in the state’s northeastern counties,” said Bill Capouillez, Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management director. “It isn’t often that staff manages to broker such a large complex deal that is so beneficial to wildlife and countless Pennsylvanians.”
Some of acreage borders two miles of Choke Creek — a waterway with brook trout spawning, while much of the other acreage is accented with low-bush blueberry, mountain, laurel and mixed oak-maple forest interspersed with stands of hemlock and white pine. Once slated for urban development, this acreage is now protected for wildlife, recreationalists and generations yet to come.
The Board approved the acquisition of two properties totaling 738 acres from the Wildlands Conservancy, Emmaus, which was working on behalf of the Palmerton Natural Resources Trustee Council. The council, which is dispersing compensation from a financial settlement for natural resource impacts in connection with the Palmerton Zinc Pile Superfund site in Northampton and Monroe counties, is comprised of the U.S. Department of the Interior; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Pennsylvania Game Commission; Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The first of the two properties is a 354-acre tract adjacent to SGL 168 in Monroe County’s Eldred Township. Known locally as the Alpine Motorsports tract, the property is located on the Blue Mountain’s northern slope and protects more than one-half-mile of Aquashicola Creek. The second property is a 384-acre tract adjacent to SGL 217 in Schuylkill County’s West Penn Township. It also is located on the Blue Mountain’s northern slope. The Game Commission is providing $1 million toward the acquisition of both properties. The funding comes from third-party commitments for habitat and recreational loss compensation that occurred on state game lands in other previously approved projects.
The Board approved the acquisition of 98 acres adjacent to SGL 223 in Greene County’s Greene and Cumberland townships from MarkWest Liberty Midstream and Resources LLC, Atlasburg, in exchange for habitat and surface damages that will be incurred to construct a new 20-inch diameter pipeline on SGL 232 in Washington County’s Blaine and Donegal townships. The new acreage is mostly mixed hardwood forest with some shrub-land and reverting fields. It will provide improved access to northern SGL 223 from Kurans Road.
The Board also approved a restricted surface-use oil and gas cooperative agreement amendment with Chesapeake Appalachia, Oklahoma City, Okla., to add 1,092 acres to the firm’s existing lease area on SGL 36 in Bradford County’s Monroe and Overton townships. For the lease amendment, the PGC will receive a the same bonus payment and royalty rate that was competitively bid in 2012. Royalty has been set at 25.5 percent with additional consideration totaling $2,183,800.
In other business, the Board of Game Commissioners:
• Approved final adoption of WMU 2H as a new Wildlife Management Unit. It was created through a subdivision of WMU 2G.
• Announced the next meeting of the Board of Game Commissioners will be held June 24 and 25.