Conservancy to expand Cove Mtn Preserve

This 3D map shows the lands in bright green that The Nature Conservancy plans to acquire on Cove Mtn. later this year.

The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania plans to acquire about 1,200 acres on Cove Mountain along the Susquehanna River just north of Harrisburg, according to letters it sent municipalities and staff from the conservation organization.

The acquisition would protect much of the remaining ridge line on the v-shaped mountain between Marysville and Duncannon that’s already conserved in state game lands, watershed properties and the Appalachian Trail corridor. Theoretically, once the land purchase is complete, one could hike from one borough to the other along the mountain.

The conservancy and the current landowners, the Nevin White Lumber Co., have been working on the deal for about a year, said Josh Parrish, the conservancy’s working woodlands director.

“This has been a priority parcel for us,” Parrish said last week.

The conservancy has made protecting the Kittatinny Ridge through Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York key goal. The ridge, also known as Blue Mountain in Pa., is a key corridor for migratory birds including falcons, hawks and other birds of prey.

“It’s really significant,” Parrish said. “Beautiful views of the Susquehanna River … It’s a great piece of property.”

The Google map below shows Cove Mtn., where the conservancy project is proposed:

The deal is expected to cost $4.5 million, including money for improvements and conservation on the land, Parrish said. The parties have an agreement of sale with the conservancy having to raise the money before December. It’s in the process of seeking state grants, as well as money from foundations and individuals to complete the sale.

The conservancy wants to close on the property sometime in the fall. Then community stakeholders would be part of meetings to discuss conservation and recreation priorities for the land that would become part of the Cove Mountain Preserve.

“That way people can be heard about how this is important for nature and people,” Parrish said.

The conservancy acquired the 353 acres of the CMP on the north side of Marysville in 2017 and by the next year had two new hiking trails open for the public. The preserve is open to passive recreation, including hunting. When the new lands are acquired, they would be added to the CMP. Like there, the conservancy plans to make concerted efforts to fight invasive plant species that have taken hold on the mountain.

In 2018, the conservancy also worked with Duncannon to acquire the development easement on its watershed properties on the north side of Cove Mountain. The borough still owns the lands and can use them for timber harvests, but the conservancy helped it develop a woodland improvement plan. The two entities are also developing recreational opportunities on the land too.

The acquisition of the remaining acres west of CMP would be the third significant conservation effort on the mountain in the past four years for The Nature Conservancy.

“We’re very excited about this,” Parrish said. “It’s as exciting of a project as I’ve ever seen, and we’ll work hard to raise the money necessary to close later this year.”

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