ClearWater Conservancy's Land Conservation Program seeks to balance the rapid growth of central Pennsylvania with the conservation of important ecological, cultural, and historic places. We work with landowners and managers to determine appropriate conservation methods, including land management recommendations, conservation easements, and land acquisition.
On August 8, 2006 ClearWater Conservancy purchased the 423-acre Musser Gap for natural resource conservation—its most important land conservation project to date. The Conservancy bought the land from a private landowner who had planned to develop the property. In early 2007, Musser Gap will be incorporated into Rothrock State Forest, providing public access to its impressive network of trails.
Musser Gap is part of the Tussey Mountain Important Bird Area, as designated by the Pennsylvania Audubon, is adjacent to the Rothrock State Forest and Stone Mountain Important Bird Area, and is also within the one-year zone of contribution of the State College Borough Water Authority’s Harter and Thomas well fields, which supply drinking water to approximately 38,000 residents of the Centre Region.
Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the State College Borough Water Authority, the Townships of Ferguson, Harris, Patton, College, and Halfmoon, the Borough of State College, and the Huplits Foundation for the significant financial contributions that made this land acquisition project possible. Thanks also to Omega Bank for their in-kind support and financial assistance.
Your Support Makes Conservation Happen
To mark the purchase of Musser Gap and maintain the momentum into the next projects, ClearWater Conservancy has launched a $500,000 Campaign for Conservation for the Land Conservation Program.
To make a financial pledge of support, please complete and send back a contribution form or contact the ClearWater office
at (814) 237-0400.
The Importance of Musser Gap
The Spring Creek Rivers Conservation Plan cites the incremental destruction and fragmentation of Spring Creek's natural habitats by encroaching urban development as the most important threat to the Spring Creek Watershed.
Musser Gap is a 423-acre forested mountain gap adjacent to Rothrock State Forest. The parcel possesses significant watershed and habitat value and is located in the proposed Spring Creek Headwaters Reserve, as delineated by the Spring Creek Rivers Conservation Plan (ClearWater Conservancy, 2001). It is also within two Audubon-designated Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Rothrock State Forest (IBA #35) was designated an IBA primarily because of the mature, unfragmented deciduous forested habitat it provides for nesting forest-interior Neotropical migratory birds.
Important Bird Areas
The proposed boundary for the Tussey Mountain IBA (IBA #81) also includes Musser Gap. The Tussey Mountain IBA designation was based largely on the use of Tussey Mountain by Golden Eagles during their spring migration. More Golden Eagles migrate along Tussey Mountain each spring than any other location east of the Mississippi River identified to date. The Tussey Mountain Hawkwatch is located a short distance down ridge from Musser Gap, just above the town of Pine Grove Mills.
These two IBAs are comprised of large unfragmented forests that provide migrating or nesting habitat for bird species such as Broad-winged Hawk, American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Northern Harrier, Acadian Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler, Ovenbird, Canada Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Blue-headed Vireo, and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Three USGS Biological Survey Division Breeding Bird Survey Routes are in the immediate vicinity of Musser Gap, one of which would be directly associated with Musser Gap.
It has been determined that mountain gaps, including Musser Gap, serve as primary contributors to groundwater recharge in the Spring Creek Watershed. Additionally, any contamination introduced through these mountain gaps would quickly reach the groundwater aquifers that they feed. For this reason, the residential development proposed for Musser Gap is of particular concern to the State College Borough Water Authority as Musser Gap is located within the one-year zone of contribution to their Harter and Thomas Well Fields, which supply drinking water to residents of the Centre Region.
In 2001, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection determined that Slab Cabin Run is impaired (i.e., not supporting the quantity or quality of aquatic life that is expected). Because there are two unnamed tributaries of Slab Cabin Run that flow through Musser Gap, there is concern that residential development within Musser Gap may further degrade the water quality of these two unnamed tributaries and therefore Slab Cabin Run.
The acquisition of Musser Gap will create a valuable recreational resource (hiking, biking, birding, hunting, trapping, horseback riding, etc.) for the residents and visitors of the Centre Region that emulates Galbraith and Shingletown Gaps. A Musser Gap Forest Gateway will provide new access to the existing trail systems in Shingletown Gap and Rothrock State Forest (e.g., Mid-State Trail, Musser Gap Trail, etc.) and alleviate the current over-use of the Shingletown Gap trail system.
Our community identity is closely linked with the open valleys cradled by forested ridges that provide the backdrop to our lives. By protecting this part of the Tussey Mountain viewscape, we hold on to a piece of what makes it so nice to live in central Pennsylvania.