PENNVEST has approved loans totaling nearly $50 million to an affiliate of The Lyme Timber Company LP for land purchases in northwest Pennsylvania. At the time of the October announcement of the first round of financing, DCNR Secretary Cindy Adam Dunn said, “The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry has been working closely with PENNVEST, the Department of Environmental Protection, local officials and industry leaders to help pull together this important project that will provide working conservation easements to allow sustainable forestry, protect high quality streams, and mitigate acid mine drainage.” In exchange for the financing, affiliates of Lyme will donate a conservation easement over approximately 9,500 acres of timberland in northwest Pennsylvania, 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.