Lyme purchased 52,800 acres and secured the purchase of an additional 15,000 acres in northwest Pennsylvania and southwest New York, a region known for its high-quality hardwoods, including black cherry. Approximately 33,300 acres of the lands were purchased from affiliates of Hancock Timber Resource Group (HTRG) and approximately 19,500 acres were purchased from affiliates of The Forestland Group (TFG). To finance the transactions, Lyme accessed financing from the state of Pennsylvania’s clean water revolving loan fund, PENNVEST, and The Conservation Fund. The lands link national forest land and existing state-owned land and because of their location at the headwaters of the Allegheny River and Susquehanna River watersheds, have been identified as conservation priorities.
In exchange for the financing, affiliates of Lyme will donate a conservation easement over approximately 9,500 acres of timberland, perform at least $700,000 of acid mine drainage (AMD) remediation on lands in Cameron County, and for a seven-year period agree to manage an additional 51,000 acres of lands subject to conservation restrictions while granting rights to the Commonwealth for the purchase of conservation easements to permanently protect the lands. The conservation easements are expected to provide public recreational access to the lands, but the lands will remain in private ownership and on the local property tax rolls.
In advance of the PENNVEST awards, Lyme solicited and received support for its PENNVEST application from a cross section of private businesses (sawmills, logging contractors, private landowners, and forestry consultants), county commissioners, and conservation organizations in the region. The lands acquired by Lyme were originally part of two ownerships that totaled nearly 300,000 acres. These former industrial lands have been divided into smaller and smaller parcels over the past 20 years. Supporters of the conservation effort believe that the conservation of large, industrial blocks of timberland under continued private ownership is a critical component to the viability of the region’s forest products industry and the associated logging, trucking and mill jobs.