Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Carbon to list lands worth saving

Carbon County wants to identify valuable undeveloped land, rich in native plants and animals, with the hope of preserving it for future generations.

The county is accepting proposals from planning firms to draft a greenways and open space plan. The proposals will be opened and read aloud at the county commissioners' meeting 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Fred Osifat, the county Director of Planning and Development, said the county is home to large forests with an abundance of plants, animals and waterways that should be preserved.

The open space consultant that the county chooses also will be asked to update the county comprehensive plan, which examines land-use patterns and goals in an attempt to control growth. The current plan was written 10 years ago, and the commissioners adopted it in 1998.

At that time, greenways and open space planning was not specifically addressed.

However, much rural and forested land in the county has been developed or targeted by developers in the past decade, and officials now see more clearly the benefits of cataloguing and protecting the county's most important and irreplaceable natural resources.

Most of the county's forests and natural spaces are in the northern municipalities of Kidder, Penn Forest, Banks and Packer townships. Much of the woodland on the Broad Mountain is owned by the state and is open for game hunting.

But hundreds of acres in Kidder and Penn Forest, where many city dwellers are building second homes or relocating permanently, are slated for development.

County officials plan to apply for state grants from the departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Community and Economic Development to complete the open space plan.

''We had a natural diversity study done by Nature Conservancy to identify different natural things in certain areas … flora, fauna, wildlife, mammals, serpents, what have you,'' Osifat said. ''There's a vast array of categories that are addressed.''

In 2004, ecologists from the Nature Conservancy catalogued old-growth forests, undisturbed wetlands, bird rookeries and habitats harboring rare animal and plant species in the county to make suggestions for land conservation.

The county plan will take the cataloguing further by identifying specific pieces of land.

Osifat said it is likely an organization similar to the Nature Conservancy will offer to partner in the plan once funding is in place.

Story from mcall.com.

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