The Conservation Fund seeks funding for land purchase that would add 1,100 acres to Michaux State Forest in Pennsylvania; group has raised US$3M to buy Eagle Rock property valued at US$4M from Atlanta-based Timbervest

CHAMBERSBURG, Pennsylvania , July 2, 2014 () – A conservation group is asking for county support to buy land that will turned over to a state forest.

The Conservation Fund is seeking $250,000 from the county to buy 1,100 acres that will be transferred to the adjacent Michaux State Forest.

Todd McNew of the Virginia-based nonprofit said the purchase of the Eagle Rock property is expected to close Aug. 13.

The group needs $4 million for the project but only $3 million has been secured -- $1.5 million from the U.S. Forest Service Legacy Program and $1.5 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

A private donor has shown support. The group also plans to approach Greene Township supervisors and look into other state funding sources.

Commissioners voiced support on Tuesday but said they did not want to use general fund dollars for the project. The county is developing a proposal that looks for other funding sources and would spread any potential contribution over a period of a few years.

"It's a gorgeous piece of land. I'm predisposed favorably to the county participating, but my feeling is I would prefer if we do not use general fund dollars to participate," Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski said. "If we find a source of dollars other than general fund dollars, I think it would be a worthwhile endeavor."

McNew called the tract a "sportsman's paradise," adding there is great potential for fishing, hiking, equestrian activities and mountain biking. Much of the Eagle Rock property is also in the watershed of the Guilford Water Authority.

McNew said the growth of the Washington-Baltimore metro area is putting development pressure on land in Franklin County.

The land is owned by Atlanta-based Timbervest. The purchase price was not disclosed because the deal is still under contract. After the sale closes, it would take another six to 12 months to transfer the land to the state forest.

In 2010, The Conservation Fund completed a similar project, acquiring 2,500 acres in Adams County and transferring the land to Michaux.

When the group applied for funding from the U.S. Forest Service in 2011 for the Eagle Rock project, Franklin County commissioners wrote letters of support to federal officials.

Marcus Rauhut can be reached at 262-4752.


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