Program conserves over 4,000 acres around Fort Indiantown Gap

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa.- Officials with the installation, Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and Capitol Region Water attended a Feb. 28 meeting to approve the paperwork conserving more than 4,000 acres at the DeHart reservoir using the Army Compatible User Buffer Program. This transaction brings the total contiguous acreage placed in this conservation easement to more than 8,000 acres. An earlier transaction was completed in Sept. 2016.

The program allows Army installations to work with land owner and conservation partners like the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, to create conservation easements with land owners. Land owners are paid for the development rights of their land through the Army Compatible User Buffer program by the conservation partner. This parcel was in Capitol Region Water Authority holdings and remains the authority’s; however, the development rights have been transferred to The Nature Conservancy.

“This program is a win for Pennsylvanians,” said Ward Burton, conservationist, founder of the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, and former NASCAR driver. “By that I mean it’s good for sportsmen, bird-watchers, the wildlife living there, and really anyone who cares about conserving open space. This land will be conserved in perpetuity.”

The benefit to the military is the conservation of pristine land to conduct nighttime flying. The land is essential for pilots training at the installation. An additional benefit is that by conserving land it curtails development, also known as encroachment, near the installation’s borders.

“Our neighbors are our partners,” said Lt. Col. Lane Marshall, commander of Fort Indiantown Gap. “But I recognize that military installations can generate noise, smoke and other disturbances. By participating in this program we can help conserve the land around the installation as well as mitigate the impact of our training on others. It’s a win-win.”

The transaction has taken several years to complete, according to Pat Rickard, environmental planning manager for Fort Indiantown Gap. The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation was brought on as the primary partner several years ago.

“This was a team effort,” Rickard said. Burton agreed, stating, “It’s truly an honor to work with the team from the National Guard Bureau, Pennsylvania National Guard, Capitol Region Water Authority and Fort Indiantown Gap.”

The installation hopes to continue its success with the program. Additional conservation efforts are planned for 2018, including adding another 160 acres onto this conserved piece of property.

Fort Indiantown Gap is the busiest Army National Guard training center in the nation and is run by members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. More than 130,000 service members, first responders and partners at the local, state, national and international levels train here annually.

SOURCE: Fort Indiantown Gap press release