Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced PENNVEST’s $25.4 million loan commitment to an affiliate of the Lyme Timber Company LP to create new forest-related jobs, leverage private sector investment in the local economy, and ensure clean water for surrounding communities. The commitment contemplates the donation of a working forest conservation easement on 9,362 acres of the property to be purchased, as well as an acid mine drainage restoration project. “This is an example of how government and private sector interests can intersect to protect the environment, and improve water quality as we help preserve important segments of our forested areas all the while creating jobs and economic opportunities as they are managed for future generations,” said Governor Wolf.
In exchange for the financing, affiliates of Lyme will donate a conservation easement over a portion of the timberland, perform at least $500,000 of acid mine drainage (AMD) remediation on lands in Cameron County, and for a seven-year period agree to manage additional 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.