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Program Makes Sure PA Land "Gems" Keep Their Polish

December 6, 2010

YORK, Pa. - Pieces of property in Pennsylvania deemed too precious to develop are being protected by a group dedicated to preserving them for future generations. Just recently, a 200-plus acre parcel belonging to a York County YWCA camp was placed in preservation through the nonprofit Farm and Natural Lands Trust of York County (FNLT).

FNLT Executive Director Sean Kenny says his group purchases conservation easements from property owners that restrict development going forward. The group then checks periodically to make sure the easements are being honored.

"They check for dump sites; they check for any building that wasn't approved and for any unauthorized trespassing, such as people setting up camp on the property."

Kenny says the land covered in the "Y" easement contains many species of trees and ferns, and he counts pheasants, fox, deer and heron among its residents. One major attribute of the land is the vista it offers to drivers in the area, he adds.

"Any of our major interstates should be a showcase for what a county has to offer, so it's a very scenic property as you drive along I-83. As you come down, it kind of gives you a glimpse into an untouched preserve of wooded area."

Kenny says the trust receives 80 percent to 90 percent of its easements through donations from landowners who want the view they see on their property today left untouched by development in years to come.

"You can ensure that, beyond your lifetime, your property maintains the character it has now. There's no risk of major building on the property, someone tearing down all the wooded areas, someone trying to change the stream or anything like that."

Kenny says the property is located in the western section of Pennsylvania's Highlands, a state-designated mega-greenway. It can be sold by the WWCA in the future, but the conditions of the easement remain, no matter who the owner is. To date in 2010, the trust has purchased easements covering just under 1,000 acres, he adds.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA