Through a partnership between ClearWater Conservancy and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 1,271 acres have been added to Rothrock State Forest in Centre and Huntingdon counties.
ClearWater Conservancy acquired the land from Dry Hollow Hunting Club for $3.65 million then transferred the ownership to DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry to be permanently conserved and accessible to the public as part of Rothrock State Forest.
The purchase was made with financial support from partners including DCNR and philanthropic foundations including the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
The land, contiguous with existing forest property, is located in Ferguson, Halfmoon and Warriors Mark townships. The 905 acres within Warriors Mark become the first publicly accessible land there.
The land will provide recreational opportunities such as hunting, hiking, biking and birding while continuing ClearWater’s conservation efforts in Rothrock and the Scotia Barrens area.
“Never has the value of our state forest system shined brighter than during these most trying times and DCNR is proud to partner with Clearwater Conservancy in this addition to Rothrock that brings so much to so many,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said in a statement on Wednesday. “State forest visitors have gained a new appreciation of their surroundings during the pandemic and in these 1,271 acres there are so many features to be enjoyed by those who will come — the hunters, hikers, local historians and others.”
The newly added land is sometimes called Scotia West because of its proximity to the Scotia Barrens, which contains the largest remaining patch of pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in Pennsylvania.
“Those who step onto the property will notice right away that its terrain and vegetation is very different from the typically steep and rocky terrain of Rothrock Forest,” Deb Nardone, executive director of ClearWater Conservancy, said. “It’s hardwoods forests, rolling hills and vernal pools are sure to excite all who explore this property. “
Acquisition of the land for the state forest is part of ClearWater’s ongoing Scotia Barrens to Ridgelines initiative to preserve and protect the unique woodland habitat.
The Dry Hollow property is within an area that supports 26 species of special concern in Pennsylvania. Vernal pools, which are dry for part of the year, also are located on the property and provide space for salamanders and frogs to breed and lay egg. The land has been identified as a Biological Diversity Area by the Centre County Natural Heritage Inventory.
Below the surface is a large groundwater recharge area that contributes to the region’s drinking supplies and supports trout fishing as it flows toward Spruce Creek.
Mark Potter, forest district manager for the Rothrock State Forest, said the district has worked with ClearWater Conservancy for more than 15 years and he is excited for their efforts to add an important piece of land to the forest.
“Opportunities to secure large tracts of unfragmented forest within the landscape of Rothrock State Forest with such high conservation value and opportunity for the public are minimal, so it is great to see this acquisition end successfully,” Potter said.
The district is working to create suitable public access points, clearly mark the new state forest boundary from adjacent private land and develop recreational opportunities on the tract.
In addition to offering space for outdoor recreational activities, the property also may be of interest to local history buffs. In the 1800s it was explored for iron ore by the likes of Andrew Carnegie and remnants from that exploration, such as an old railway, can still be seen.
ClearWater Conservancy expects to offer opportunities to explore the property through its Centred Outdoors guided adventure program this summer.