Welcome to Penn State, Spring Creek Canyon
The Spring Creek Canyon area consists of 1,800 acres currently owned by the PA Department of Corrections. Everyone seems to want a piece, and negotiations have stumbled along for the past few years. Now, a final agreement has been reached.
The land has been divided into over a dozen parcels. Most will be under the ownership of the College of Agricultural Sciences, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
In earlier stages of the negotiations, the College of Agricultural Sciences was to receive 1,124 acres for a myriad of research purposes. Now, the Fish and Boat Commission will claim the waterways and fish hatcheries, and the Game Commission will claim the forested areas, leaving the College with only the prime agricultural lands, about 480 acres.
For additional nuts and bolts regarding the issue, check out the Spring Creek Canyon Master Plan.
The College earlier anticipated over double the amount of appropriated land. Now they may have to shift their research plans from forestry and agriculture to primarily agriculture. In his “Vision for the Rockview Land,” Dean Bruce McPheron explains his agricultural expectations for the land:
Areas of the property now in agricultural production would provide an excellent land base for studies on sustainable biomass production in support of a biofuels industry that is compatible with the climate and land resources of Pennsylvania…. Portions of the Rockview property would be ideal for exploring perennial grasses and other plant-based feedstocks. Despite the large tracts of land that we manage in central Pennsylvania, we do not have land that can be committed to these sorts of long-term experiments without displacing other essential research projects.
The Rockview property also offers an ideal opportunity to expand research to help Pennsylvania’s organic producers. The most recent Census of Agriculture reveals that Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation in the value of organic products sold. There are vast research needs in this arena – a production approach that is sought by consumers and producers alike. We have certified-organic land on our Rock Springs farm, but these 10 acres are inadequate for the extent of research that is needed, and we are planning for an additional 100 acres. Access to the Rockview property could provide an alternative location for organic research.
Well, that sounds promising, eh? Some environmentalists think differently.
Gary Thornbloom, chairman of the Sierra Club Moshannon Group, conveys the trepidation felt by some environmentalists, the Collegian reports.
He explained, “With an institution like Penn State, you can end up getting land that looked like it would be protected in a certain way, but as its goals change is either sold or developed…. There’s just a concern with Penn State — there’s building, building, building.”
Local environmentalist Tina Robinson shared her thoughts with Onward State on behalf of Eco-Action:
Eco-Action’s official position is that this is a good compromise, but we would have liked all the land to go to the Game Commission. We will suggest the University to use this land for only sustainable agricultural research. We would like the University to step up to the challenge [of] overwriting their past reputation for land stewardship by being an amazing steward of the Spring Creek lands…. I think that students, and groups like Eco-Action, need to hold the University accountable to be good stewards by keeping a watchful eye on the situation.
While a rogue university is possible, we needn’t fear choking on chemical fertilizers just yet.
The University signed legal forms which limited the land usage of the Spring Creek Canyon area. The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, along with the ClearWater Conservancy, will act as watchdogs to ensure appropriate behavior.
The University can benefit immensely from this land acquisition, as can agricultural students participating in relevant research. However, as Ms. Robinson explained, the University must serve as a responsible steward of the land. Only then can Penn State create a stronger university and a healthier environment.