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Rallying a Community For the accredited ClearWater Conservancy in central Pennsylvania, protection of land and water have always been inextricably bound, dictated by the region’s karst topography of soluble rocks and disappearing streams.
“Our drinking water supply comes from the land beneath our feet,” says ClearWater Executive Director Deb Nardone. “What happens on the land’s surface has a direct impact on groundwater and on our world-class trout streams. Land conservation is essential to protect waters for our community and for all those who live downstream.” The region encompasses an expanding university town, State College, the secondfastest growing community in Pennsylvania. The town’s designated growth boundary was expanded in recent years, allowing a former farm to be converted to townhouses. That controversial decision, Nardone says, helped community members realize that much of their drinking water came from an area of farmland and open space just outside the present growth boundary that would be “next in line for development.” Fortunately, ClearWater had come to this realization years earlier, Nardone says, by “proactively thinking about the areas most important to protect and letting science be the driver.” In order to protect 300 acres of farmland in this area, home to a beloved community dairy offering milk in glass bottles and homemade ice cream, the land trust committed to the largest fundraising campaign in its On this farm protected by Lancaster Farmland Trust, the farmer learned to store the manure (left) in an impervious structure (right) to keep runoff out of local waters. continued from page 19 LANCASTER FARMLAND TRUST www.landtrustalliance.org SAVINGland Winter 2020 23 history: $2.7 million to acquire two agricultural easements along a headwater stream known as Slab Cabin Run. “We had never done a full-cost acquisition before,” Nardone says, “so it was really a leap for us. There was a lot of good discussion at the board level about whether we were ready for this step.” Local municipalities lent strong support to the effort, with a leading gift of $750,000 from the State College Water Authority and five additional municipalities contributing another $500,000. A local foundation made a major gift as well, alongside many community contributions. A local brewery put promotional bottle hangers about the project on its “Slab Cabin IPA” bottles while a local winery donated $3 per bottle from sales of its “Slab Cabin Run Red.” Students at a neighboring school painted “cow” buckets that appeared by the registers of area businesses, garnering about $1,500. And, naturally, there were ice cream social fundraisers. While reaching this ambitious goal, ClearWater continued discussions with surrounding landowners. The work doesn’t end with an easement as the land trust helps to implement stewardship measures like riparian buffers and forest management plans. “We’re making headway farm by farm and family by family,” Nardone says.