EMMAUS, PA (Dec. 18, 2017) – With the support of OSI’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, Wildlands Conservancy announced today the permanent protection of 72 acres of woodlands and wetlands in eastern Pennsylvania. The project preserves forests and streams that are critical to the sustained health of the Lehigh River watershed.
The acquired acreage expands Wildlands’ 1,300-acre Thomas Darling Preserve and its mosaic of glacial wetlands. Additionally, it protects critical wildlife habitat, provides essential connectivity between adjacent existing natural areas, and helps advance the land trust’s plans for public access along Route 940.
“Conserving intact and unspoiled land is critical for protecting drinking water quality in the Upper Lehigh River,” says OSI executive vice president Peter Howell. “This property, which adds to some 2,300 acres or conserved land, protects the forested headwaters of Tobyhanna Creek that feeds the Upper Lehigh River, an important tributary of the Delaware River. To protect water quality for the 15 million people lower down in the Delaware River Basin, it is critical that we protect places like Tobyhanna Creek at the top of the watershed.”
“With precious wetlands, abundant wildlife habitat and waterways that lead to the Lehigh River, this special, natural area is a critical landscape that begs to be kept whole,” says Christopher Kocher, president of Wildlands. “And thanks to the support of our giving community and visionary partners, Wildlands is meaningfully connecting more people with nature in Poconos, altogether inspiring a future for local conservation.”
Wildlands acknowledges OSI, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Monroe County, and private donations through Pocono Lake Preserve for providing funding for the purchase of these 72 acres, as well as the former owners of the property, the Plank family, for their cooperation in the purchase.
Thomas Darling Preserve is located in the famed Pocono Mountains and is home to one of the state’s largest spruce forests, offering more than 1,300 acres of birding, hiking and hunting areas. Its remoteness and ruggedness provides the perfect habitat for a variety of species, including the endangered Northern Flying Squirrel. Since 2014, efforts have also been underway for another at-risk species, the Golden-winged warbler.
Wildlands is restoring early successional forest, the species’ preferred habitat, within a 70-acre area. Early monitoring already points to an increase in the number and diversity of birds that call Thomas Darling home, meaning the Golden-winged warbler is soon likely to find favor.