With the support of a Growing Greener grant, over 100 acres of land between the Scotia Barrens and State Game Land 176 on Bald Eagle Mountain in Halfmoon Township, Centre County will remain an undeveloped wildlife corridor. While the county’s ridges and mountains may be the most noticeable of the area’s natural treasures, an exceptional ecosystem, known as the Scotia Barrens, exists right on the edge of State College. It is a rare habitat, one of the largest examples of a pitch pine-scrub oak barrens remaining in Pennsylvania. The area has extraordinary value as a home for a wide variety of wildlife, a primary source of groundwater, and a place to teach children about the natural world.
The conservation of this land is part of ClearWater Conservancy’s larger Scotia Barrens Conservation Project. Significant development pressure from the north imminently threatens to isolate the Barrens from the large forested tracts of Bald Eagle Mountain, itself an important natural resource. Although there appears to be open space remaining, the fact is that future developments are on the books for all but a sliver between Scotia Barrens and the ridge.
This land between the barrens and Bald Eagle Mountain gives animals such as bobcats and red foxes a corridor to safely travel between the ridge and the barrens. “ClearWater could see that the connection between the Bald Eagle ridge and the state game lands was in danger,” said Bill Hilshey, ClearWater’s Easement Manager. “We were able to make certain that at least one connection remains, which is important for the free flow of wildlife.”
ClearWater bought 39 acres slated for development from developer RT Ventures and signed a conservation easement on the land with Halfmoon Township. Buyers interested in conserving the land bought another 64 acres and enrolled it in the township’s open space preservation program.
In a news release, RT Ventures managing partner Paul Berkobin stated, “It was obvious to us that the wildlife corridor had important and far-reaching benefits for our local habitats and communities. When we understood what was at stake, we wanted to work to make the corridor a reality.”
Growing Greener funds were a key part of the overall funding for this acquisition. Additional funds came from Halfmoon Township’s open space preservation program, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and private donations.