Media Contact
Mark Zakutansky
AMC Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager & Highlands Coalition Spokesperson
mzakutansky@outdoors.org

Office: (610) 868-6915
Cell: (551) 427-0974

Kim Lewis
Berks Conservancy, Director of Marketing & Communications
kim.lewis@berks-conservancy.org
(610) 372-4992 ext. 109
 
 
Federal, state and local partnership advances conservation in the Oley Hills of Berks County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2012

Reading, PA – The Pennsylvania Highlands Coalition and the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), as the Chair of the Legislative Committee of the Coalition, are pleased to join the Berks Conservancy in announcing the preservation of 582 additional acres in the Oley Hills region east of Reading, made possible with $492,750 in federal funds provided through the Highlands Conservation Act. The Oley Hills is one of the most environmentally valued areas in the Pennsylvania Highlands with six state-recognized Exceptional Value streams, numerous historical structures, forests, and a diversity of wildlife that includes bog turtles and trout. The recent conservation easement, secured in cooperation with eight landowners, brings the total area of the Oley Hills permanently protected from development to 2,800 acres.

"While we focus our land protection efforts on various natural resources all over Berks County, we are particularly thrilled that the pristine Oley Hills have received the federal attention and funding that is necessary to protect this important land and water resource," said Kim Murphy, President of the Berks Conservancy.

A federal Highlands Conservation Act grant provided $492,750 for the purchase of the Oley Hills property and was matched with $450,000 in state open space funds and a generous donation from the landowners. Funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Highlands Conservation Act is administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service and advances federal land and water conservation objectives in the critically important, 4-State Highlands Region of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The Land and Water Conservation Fund sources its funding from revenues generated from offshore oil and gas drilling leases, rather than taxpayer dollars, to acquire important lands for the public.

Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District) was the primary sponsor of the Highlands Conservation Act, which was enacted in 2004 to provide property owners, private nonprofit organizations and communities a resource to protect natural treasures.

"Each of the partners involved in preserving this land in the Oley Hills deserve credit for their perseverance and for recognizing that the Highlands Conservation Act can be a real catalyst for cooperation," Congressman Jim Gerlach said. "It is extremely gratifying to see the legislation passed in 2004 being used so effectively to protect some of the best sources of drinking water in the Commonwealth and ensure that our children and grandchildren continue to have opportunities for hiking, fishing and enjoying other outdoor recreation activities."

Since 2007, Pennsylvania has received over $2,250,000 of Highlands Conservation Act grants for four projects, two of which have been fully completed. These federal grants have leveraged other sources of funding to protect over 650 acres.

Wendi Weber, Northeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added, "I am very pleased that funds awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Highlands Conservation Act have supported the acquisition of conservation easements in the Oley Hills Region. We are proud to be a part of this collaborative land protection project with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Berks Conservancy to help preserve the natural integrity of the Highlands Region."

"Federal conservation funding could not come at a better time for the Highlands Region and the Oley Hills, as threats to drinking water quality and environmental assets mount," said Mark Zakutansky, Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club and Pennsylvania Highlands Coalition Legislative Committee Chair.

About the Pennsylvania Highlands Coalition
The Pennsylvania Highlands Coalition, a subgroup of the 4-state Highlands Coalition, represents organizations interested in advancing conservation in the Pennsylvania portion of the region. AMC coordinates and supports the Pennsylvania Highlands Coalition and works to advance its common goals. The 4-state Highlands Coalition, a project of the AMC, is an alliance of over 180 conservation organizations in the 3.5 million acre Highlands region of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut—an area that has been deemed “nationally significant” through the federal Highlands Conservation Act (HCA), passed in 2004. Through two decades of collective conservation, the Coalition and its partners have worked to implement leading-edge conservation in the Northeast. We focus on regional conservation and sound land use management tools, including open space protection, in order to preserve valuable forests, wildlife habitat, water resources, agricultural lands, and recreational opportunities for the 25 million people who live within 45 minutes of the Highlands. Learn more at http://www.highlandscampaign.org.

About the Appalachian Mountain Club
Founded in 1876, the Appalachian Mountain Club is America’s oldest conservation and recreation organization. With more than 100,000 members, advocates, and supporters in the Northeast and beyond, the nonprofit AMC promotes the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region. The AMC supports natural resource conservation while encouraging responsible recreation, based on the philosophy that successful, long-term conservation depends upon first-hand enjoyment of the natural environment. To learn more about the Appalachian Mountain Club, visit http://www.outdoors.org. For additional information about AMC’s conservation efforts in the Pennsylvania Highlands, visit http://www.outdoors.org/conservation/wherewework/highlands.

With ears to the ground and eyes on the horizon, the Pennsylvania Highlands Coalition is a steward of the Pennsylvania Highlands and all the life it supports.

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