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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy buys 2 Somerset parcels

| Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A recent Western Pennsylvania Conservancy purchase of two Somerset County parcels brings to 18 the number of properties the agency has protected this year.

One site, a 49-acre forested property in Confluence, borders a section of the Great Allegheny Passage and encompasses most of a scenic hill.

The acquisitions enhance the hiking and biking trail that the Conservancy helped create and provide access to the nearby Casselman River, the agency said.

The Conservancy's purchase prohibits future development on the sites and protects the land around one of the trail's “centerpiece” communities, said spokeswoman Allison Schlesinger.

That property and the second purchase, a 96-acre parcel in Confluence and Lower Turkeyfoot, contain frontage along the Casselman River.

“December is a fun time in the land conservation business because many of our key acquisitions close then,” said Tom Saunders, Conservancy president and chief executive officer.

“Thirty-five years ago, so many people had such vision to begin the acquisitions for the GAP trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. Now that it's complete, it's exciting to be able to acquire and protect some of the key vistas along the trail,” Saunders said.

Michael Knoop, a Conservancy land protection and planning manager, said the smaller property had been targeted for residential development about 10 years ago.

“Fortunately, the landowner chose to sell the property ... for conservation purposes,” Knoop said.

Additional acquisitions and easements this year included 4.5 acres purchased along French Creek in Crawford County to protect a section of stream containing riffles, runs and islands; 100 acres protected near Buchanan State Forest in Bedford County, boosting public access to the forest's Sweet Root Natural Area; and surpassing the 10,000-acre mark in Ligonier Valley voluntary easements by completing an easement on a family farm in Donegal Township.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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