Federal Highlands Funds Protect the Oley Hills

The Oley Hills
Pennsylvania Highlands
On January 12th, Congressman Jim Gerlach, AMC and the Highlands Coalition, joined The Berks Conservancy and other partners to celebrate the preservation of 582 acres in the Oley Hills region east of Reading, made possible with $492,750 in federal Highlands Conservation Act funding, provided through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The addition brings the total to 2,800 acres that have been be permanently protected from development in this area of the Pennsylvania Highlands, protecting critical wildlife habitat and downstream drinking water supplies.  The land will be protected in perpetuity thanks to a conservation easement with the cooperation of eight landowners.

Congressman Gerlach
thanks partners

Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District), a prime sponsor of the Highlands Conservation Act and long-time supporter of conservation programs, attended the event and 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."

Congressman Gerlach is also a champion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses revenues generated from offshore oil and gas drilling leases, rather than taxpayer dollars, to acquire important lands for the public.  AMC has been actively working with legislators from the 4-State Highlands Region to secure funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the Highlands Conservation Act and other programs.  The Oley Hills project is the first Highlands Conservation Act project in Pennsylvania that has been fully completed since the program's inception in 2004, although three other projects are in progress, which will match over $2 million in federal funds with state and private sources to protect an additional 1,500 acres.
Kim Murphy, Berks Conservancy
President, raises a toast

The Highlands Conservation Act is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and provides up to $10 million a year for the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut to protect the highest valued land and water resources in the region. The Highlands Coalition is an alliance of over 180 conservation organizations including the Appalachian Mountain Club, working to advance conservation in the 3.5 million-acre Highlands region and to secure funding for the Highlands Conservation Act.

The Oley Hills represent a critical hub of the Pennsylvania Highlands, and contain six state-recognized Exceptional Value streams, numerous historical structures, forests, and a diversity of wildlife that includes bog turtles and trout.  Several groups worked towards this accomplishment as the Oley Hills Partnership, a group led by the Berks Conservancy. The successful conservation of 582 acres in the Oley Hills is a truly a momentous achievement.

Learn more about the event and the Pennsylvania Highlands here:
Photos Courtesy of Berks Conservancy, Mark Zakutansky and Cathy Frankenberg

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