Gov. Wolf Signs House Bill To Limit Eminent Domain Use On Land Protected By Conservation Easements
Gov. Tom Wolf Sunday signed House Bill 2468 limiting the use of eminent domain by government agencies on land with conservation easements for parks and open space purposes into law as Act 45..
Two school districts in the state-- Cumberland Valley in Cumberland County and Lower Merion in Montgomery County-- have decided to use eminent domain to condemn privately-owned land permanently preserved by conservation easements held by local land trusts, over the objections of many residents of the communities. Other suitable non-preserved land in each vicinity is available, according to the bill sponsors.
The bill would require any government agency to obtain Orphans’ Court approval before using eminent domain to take permanently preserved land. The procedure is similar to that found in the Agricultural Area Security Law which requires additional scrutiny before condemnation of agricultural lands. The Orphans’ Court is given authority in the Donated and Dedicated Property Act over certain transactions related to publicly owned lands held for public uses.
The bill exempts public utilities that condemn land (like pipelines) and exempt “emergency” condemnations from the provisions of the bill.
The bill was introduced by Representatives Warren Kampf (R-Chester), Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) and Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery).
Newlin Open Space committee: Newlin Township holds its first Open Space program for its residents.
Natural Lands’ Adds Acres to ChesLen Preserve
Rare serpentine barrens habitat preserved:
Media, Pa., February 6, 2018 – The largest privately owned nature preserve open to the public in southeastern Pennsylvania just got even bigger with the addition of 20 acres of rare habitat. Natural Lands, a regional land conservation organization, announced today that its ChesLen Preserve in Newlin Township, Chester County, expanded to 1,282 acres when the organization purchased land from an adjacent neighbor.
ChesLen was the vision of philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, whose 2007 donation of 568 acres to Natural Lands inspired Chester County to transfer 500 additional acres, thus establishing the preserve. Since that time, Natural Lands has added more than 200 acres to the preserve through purchases of adjoining lands.
The recently acquired acreage is part of a rare ecosystem known as the Unionville Serpentine Barrens, which supports a number of threatened plant and animal species.
Serpentine barrens derive their name from the presence of serpentinite, a type of rare, greenish bedrock from which the soils are weathered. The soil’s peculiar chemical characteristics make it inhospitable to all but a few tenacious plant species that have adapted to these extreme conditions. The term “barrens” was coined by farmers who discovered long ago that the soils were poor for growing crops.
“There were once 40 barrens sites in the eastern United States; today, there are fewer than 20,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands. “Natural Lands has long-prioritized not only the permanent protection of the Unionville Barrens but also believes deeply in our commitment to restoring this unique habitat.”
The loss of serpentine barrens is due to land development but also to inattention. Without periodic disturbance, bordering woodlands quickly encroach, creating a richer soil layer over the serpentinite soil as their leaves drop and decompose. For millions of years, this essential disturbance came from native animals: mastodons, mammoths, and herds of hungry elk kept trees at bay by browsing and trampling the ground beneath them. Humans have done their part, too. Native peoples set fires to improve hunting conditions, grazed livestock, and mined for soapstone.
When the serpentine barrens disappear, so too do the rare plants and insects that depend on this unique, inhospitable habitat. So Natural Lands’ team of land stewardship experts are working to restore the barrens through removal of encroaching vegetation and planting the areas with grasses and wildflowers that thrive in the hostile serpentinite soil. Similar restoration is planned for the newly acquired 20 acres.
In addition to habitat restoration, Natural Lands has established a nine-mile trail system at ChesLen Preserve, installed five trailheads, created Ollie Owl’s NaturePlayGround, and built the Lenfest Center, which serves as a management center and hosts dozens of events and community gatherings each year.
In a joint statement, Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone, and Terence Farrell said: “We congratulate Natural Lands on this latest addition to ChesLen Preserve, and especially on the acquisition of a section of rare Serpentine Barrens. This project is a great example of Chester County’s public-private partnerships investing in a future that maintains our tremendous quality of place.”
In 2010, the Unionville Barrens at ChesLen Preserve was designated a “Wild Plant Sanctuary” by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The Wild Plant Sanctuary Program, as part of the Wild Resource Conservation Act of 1982, was created to establish a voluntary statewide network of native plant sanctuaries. Landowners agree to protect the area and educate others about the importance of native and wild plants and habitats.
“Whenever land is protected in rapidly developing areas there is reason to rejoice, but this expansion of Natural Lands’ ChesLen Preserve takes on very special meaning,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “This department is proud to aid in the protection of this rare ecosystem and the threatened plant and animal species found there.”
Funding for the most-recent addition to ChesLen Preserve was provided by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Chester County – Preservation Partnership Program, and Cheshire Land Preservation Fund.
Natural Lands is dedicated to preserving and nurturing nature’s wonders while creating opportunities for joy and discovery in the outdoors for everyone. As the Greater Philadelphia region’s oldest and largest land conservation organization, Natural Lands has preserved more than 125,000 acres, including 43 nature preserves totaling more than 23,000 acres. Some 2.5 million people live within five miles of land under the organization’s protection. Land for life, nature for all. natlands.org.
Pass the Buck Award: BDT announces its "PASS THE BUCK" Award, given to newly eased landowners
Andrew Wyeth: Brandywine Conservancy hosts BDT members at a special opening of the Andrew Wyeth exhibit.
Brandywine Conservancy hosts BDT eased landowners to a special evening at Runnymeade Sanctuary.
Open Space Referendum passes in Newlin Township
The Board of Supervisors thanks the voters of Newlin Township for their support in our Open Space initiative. The referendum passed by a 60% in favor vote on November 8th. More information will be forthcoming regarding an Open Space Committee. The only further action required is for the Board of Supervisors to pass a simple resolution at our January meeting. Property owners will see the tax ($.15 per $1,000.00 of assessed value of their property) on the Township tax bill in the Spring of 2017.
Barnard’s Orchard and 70 acres officially preserved permanently in Newlin Township:
With the completion of the paperwork and the signing of the agricultural conservation easement, Barnard’s Orchard, a community staple for over 150 years, is now officially permanently protected. The easement adds an additional 70 plus acres to the protected lands in Newlin.
The project would not be possible without the Barnard Family, and The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County’s (TLC) partnerships with and funding from the Chester County Challenge Grant Program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and the Marmot Foundation. Additionally, much thanks is owed to the community who overwhelmingly came out in support of conserving Barnard’s Orchard in late summer as TLC worked to raise the last of the project for completion this year. Thanks to the contributions and support from so many, the Barnard’s Orchard property will remain in active agriculture forever.
Barnard’s Orchard, a fourth generation family farm, was established in 1862 with the family interests expanding over the years. The orchard and store now provide apples, peaches, blueberries, flowers, and other produce year-round to area residents via the grounds and greenhouses. The Barnard family has worked with TLC over the past two years to complete the easement and honor their family land to ensure it remains in agricultural use forever. The family will maintain ownership of the property, located along Route 842 two miles east of Unionville, while The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County and the County Agricultural Land Preservation Board will co-hold the easement and act as guardians of its provisions.
Not only will the land be preserved in active agriculture, but the easement also protects Barnard Run, a valuable first-order tributary of the Brandywine Creek and its robust riparian buffer and woodlands. These protected natural resources benefit the community by helping filter water entering the streams to improve water quality for both wildlife and the area residents who rely on the Brandywine Creek watershed for their drinking supply.
“Barnard’s Orchard is crown jewel, with many loyal multi-generational customers and a family intent on embracing their legacy within the community, this is the success story of the year,” said Gwen Lacy, TLC’s executive director.
However, Lacy went on to caution, that for every success story like Barnard’s, there are at least two other family farms that unfortunately go the way of development, for one reason or another.
“We know we must remain vigilant,” said Lacy, “and as a result of the outpouring of support for Barnard’s, TLC has created a program called Funds for Farms, so that residents can continue to be part of the solution in Southern Chester County. There was such an outpouring of support for Barnard’s we are hoping to harness that power and replicate it, so that other farmers can recognize income while conserving their farms in perpetuity.”
To learn how you can be part of the solution, as TLC works to help conserve more family farms, login on to TLC’s website www.tlcforscc.org and click on the Donate Funds for Farms or send a check payable to TLC designated for Funds for Farms to:
The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, 541 Chandler Mill Road, Avondale, PA 19311.
TLC was formed in August 1995 by a group of concerned citizens as a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity recognized by the IRS. The four pillars of the mission are land conservation, historic preservation, environmental education, and stewardship.
"Community Conversation on Conservation"
Buck & Doe Trust along with the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy hosted an evening discussion about land conservation in our community! Over 100 neighbors and friends attended to learn conservation efforts in our area. Additionally, an expert discussion panel shared vital info and experiences to the effort.
The Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art is pleased to introduce Ian Gereg, the new Preserve Manager for the Laurels. Ian moved to Chester County from Conneticut where he was director of the Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy in Litchfield. Ian stated there as the resident aviculturist and worked his way up to become Director. He holds an M.S. in Environmental and forest Biology from SUNY Syracuse and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Unity College. With extensive experience in environmental education, volunteer management and land management. Ian's contact info:
cell: 215-272-9259 firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum in Coatesville, PA, has announced its eighth annual Rebecca Lukens Award to be presented to noted conservation strategist, Molly Keim Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. Established by The Graystone Society’s National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum to honor individuals who exhibit the qualities of Rebecca Lukens This year commemorates Rebecca Lukens’ 220th birthday. A Chester County native, Molly Morrison learned to appreciate the importance of land preservation by spending time on her grandparents’ farm in northern Chester County, where her German immigrant ancestors had been farming since the early 1700s.
As President of Natural Lands Trust, she has been instrumental in creating conservation strategies for complex land transactions, including the acquisition of the 1,263-acre ChesLen Preserve in Newlin Township. In addition to providing strategic leadership and fundraising for a staff of 60, Ms. Morrison oversees a network of 42 nature preserves and 361 conservation easements, totaling more than 44,000 acres.
Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust (and its predecessor non-profit, the Philadelphia Conservationists) has saved more than 100,000 acres of natural areas and agricultural lands, making it one of the largest regional non-profit land trusts in the United States. While much of its land protection focus has been in Chester County, Natural Lands Trust pursues strategic land preservation and stewardship activities throughout all of eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.
"As a Chester County native, I have always been inspired by those individuals in our county’s history who have emerged as leaders to take on all manner of challenging roles–in women’s and civil rights, in business, in education, in government, and in conservation," said Morrison. "Rebecca Lukens is the epitome of that spirit of transformation and commitment. Receiving an award in her name is an incredible honor for me."
James D. Ziegler, the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum’s executive director applauds this years' choice for the eighth annual Rebecca Lukens Award. "Molly is a visionary, a doer, and a strategic leader. Her actions mirror those of Rebecca in her dedication to the land, community, and family. Like others before her, she has contributed to a better Chester County–one that has benefited from her dedication and vision."
To date, over $104,000+ has been raised through leadership gifts from neighbors, along with generous donations from so many in the community. See the Covered Bridges in the Laurels for update.
Brandywine Conservancy reaches out to the community to assist them in varying levels of needs to manage the Laurels Preserve. See the Trail Stewards Guide for a complete description and contact information to become involved.
Inaugural gathering of "The Laurels and the Hardy"
The Inaugural gathering of The Laurels and The Hardy was held on Saturday, May 4th with an incredible group of about 40 hardy souls.
The Buck and Doe Trust joined forces with our neighbor, the Brandywine Conservancy, in doing some invasive species removal in the Laurels on the first Saturday in May. We were exceptionally lucky with a beautiful weather and about 40 wonderful willing volunteers, including about 10 kids who pulled more mustard garlic than you could ever want in your salad.
The Laurels and the Hardy met at the Apple Grove entrance to the Laurels and started our morning with hot coffee and yummy apple cider donuts and other sweet treats. Edie Dondero and Chris Wales of the Brandywine Conservancy gave us talk about invasive plants and the best management strategies for controlling them. We then attacked the enemy, Garlic Mustard. We walked the path down to the covered bridges, pulling garlic mustard from both sides of the path and throwing it on the path to dry out.
We hope to continue the tradition of partnership with the Brandywine Conservancy and have a fall clean up as well. Please stay tuned for future details.
The wonderful thing about getting together with friends and neighbors to work on a project like cleaning up the Laurels is that it takes little of each participants' time, accomplishes so much for the community, and makes everyone feel good when done.
The comradery was amazing.
It was a great turnout with almost 40 strong! It was great fun! And we all learned a lot about invasives!
Please remember the Laurels Preserve is only open to members of the Brandywine Conservancy, and check their website for complete details
Thanks to your efforts, and many of our supporters, dedicated funding for farmland preservation and open space is safe! The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund will continue to finance farmland preservation in the Commonwealth! Our Pennsylvania legislators received thousands of letters from people like you. Based on that, in a demonstration of bi-partisan support, they retained this permanent funding in the final, approved 2012-13 budget.
This has a great impact not only in the Commonwealth but also a tremendous impact in the Cheshire Hunt and surrounding communities. Many farms in your immediate area are permanently protected because of this funding source. This action will allow additional properties to be permanently protected and further add to the already 26,000+ contiguous acres already preserved is our area!
Originally formed in the 1980’s, this group made recommendations, dealing with access and management policies of the Laurels Preserve, to the various entities in the Brandywine Conservancy. The Laurels Management Plan was developed during this time.
The new Committee will continue to have representation from the Brandywine Conservancy's Environmental Committee and The Buck & Doe Trust. It will have responsibilities and make recommendations in the following areas which all must be reviewed and approved:
BOOK CHRONICLES BRANDYWINE CONSERVANCY'S
SUCCESSFUL WORK TO CONSERVE KING RANCH PROPERTY
Chadds Ford, PA January 31, 2012. The landmark endeavor by the Brandywine Conservancy to protect the more than 5,000 acres of critical farm and forest land of the former King Ranch property in Pennsylvania and its valuable water resources that feed the Brandywine watershed is chronicled in the new book, Catalyst for Conservation: The Brandywine Conservancy's Success in Saving King Ranch Lands in Pennsylvania.
"In one quick stroke, Buck and Doe Associates permanently protected the property's vital land and water as well as its wildlife, meadows, forests and historical sites," said George A. Weymouth, a founder of the Brandywine Conservancy and Chairman of its Board of Trustees. "Success became a true catalyst for conservation, stimulating more land conservation in the region and serving as a model across the county."
In the mid-1940s, an invitation from Chester County resident W. Plunket Stewart to his longtime friend, Texas cattleman Robert Kleberg, set in motion events that culminated in one of the most important conservation projects in the United States. For decades, the King Ranch grazed cattle on the nearly 5,400-acre property. When the company was ready to reduce its presence in Pennsylvania, the Conservancy knew quick action was needed to preserve the open space and protect the Brandywine watershed. Numerous obstacles lay ahead as dedicated trustees, staff members and advisors struggled to form a limited partnership to buy the property, find investors, navigate complex regulations and negotiate with King Ranch management. By the summer of 1984, the Conservancy's determination paid off.
Catalyst for Conservation traces the history of the Brandywine Conservancy's work to save the property from development, which ultimately resulted in permanently protecting 4,596 acres by conservation easements and setting aside another 771 acres as the Laurels Preserve. The streams and springs throughout the property continue to provide an estimated six million gallons a day to the Brandywine, which serves as the drinking water supply for the City of Wilmington, Delaware and numerous other communities in the Brandywine Watershed. Today, the Conservancy has permanently protected more than 45,000 acres, much of it resulting from the success of what became known as the "King Ranch project."
"We had to convince people to take a huge risk and make a leap of faith by investing in this partnership," continued Weymouth. "Interest rates were in the double digits, and we were requiring them to limit the amount of structures that could be built on the property. Fortunately, these partners were as committed as the Conservancy to keeping this magnificent landscape as open space. We are forever grateful to them."
Catalyst for Conservation was written by David Shields and Bill Benson. Shields worked on the King Ranch project almost from its inception and currently works as associate director of the land stewardship program of the Brandywine Conservancy's Environmental Management Center. Benson is the former director of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Oklahoma, and conducted archival research about the King Ranch and its former president, Robert J. Kleberg.
Catalyst for Conservation is 112 pages long with more than 100 illustrations. The book costs $24.95 and is available Brandywine River Museum Shop and online at www.brandywinemuseumshop.org.
Water resource protection and management have been the vital work of the Brandywine Conservancy since its founding in 1967. The Conservancy currently holds 441 conservation easements and has permanently protected more than 45,000 acres in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. In Pennsylvania, the Brandywine Conservancy's easement holdings represent more than 17% of the total acres of land under conservation easement in the Commonwealth. The Conservancy's two programs, the Brandywine River Museum and Environmental Management Center, preserve art and the environment.