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Washington Township asked to help pay back money to save former tree farm

September 02, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- How much do 2,568 acres of forest cost in southern Pennsylvania? $12.5 million and a lot of heart.

When the property known as Glatfelter Tree Farm No. 1 became available for sale, the pleas of area residents prompted The Conservation Fund to spend the millions needed to purchase it on March 25. Now, several Adams County, Pa., organizations are working together to find the money needed to pay back The Conservation Fund and ultimately turn over the land to be added onto Michaux State Forest.

The Hamiltonban (Pa.) Township Supervisors recently reached out to their counterparts in Washington Township, Pa., for help.

"What they're looking for is that they want us to sign on and give them some money so that they can buy it and give it to the state," said Carroll Sturm, chairman of the Washington Township Supervisors.

The supervisors and the township solicitor are looking over the proposal because they are unsure whether they can legally give money to another municipality.

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Maps of Glatfelter Tree Farm No. 1 show a small portion of the property within Washington Township limits.

According to a news release from The Conservation Fund, the national environmental nonprofit organization provided "bridge" financing for the $12.5 million purchase from the Glatfelter Pulp Wood Co. The Conservation Fund asked that a partnership of several organizations and residents raise the money by the end of this year.

"When Tree Farm #1 was marketed in late 2007, strong interest from potential buyers led to concern that it would sell quickly. ... Current zoning would allow for the construction of approximately 500 homes on site," the news release stated.

"We had to purchase it really fast because there were other entities looking to purchase Tree Farm No. 1," said Betsy Kerlin, a land conservation coordinator for the Land Conservancy of Adams County.

Since the purchase, financial commitments have come from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Tentatively, proponents of the forest's preservation feel they can obtain $3.5 million from the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program, according to paperwork given to the Washington Township Supervisors.

If the Forest Legacy Funds are approved, another $3 million must be raised, the documents stated.

Kerlin said Glatfelter Tree Farm No. 1 provides a thriving wildlife habitat, as well as water purification services for a large geographical area.

"It provides a lot of clean water for Adams County citizens and purifies the water that goes downstream to Baltimore-area citizens and Washington, D.C.-area citizens," Kerlin said. The water also would be cleansed for people in the greater Waynesboro area, she said.

Private contributions to the cause can be made to the Land Conservancy of Adams County, P.O. Box 4584, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Checks should mention "Tree Farm No. 1" on the memo line. For more information, call 717-334-2828.

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