When Tom and Beth Stubler wanted to spend more time fishing on the St. Lawrence River and visiting their daughters and granddaughter they decided to divest themselves of some properties they owned. This included a two-thirds interest in approximately 600 acres in Montour County on the line with Northumberland County.
Tom stopped by the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy (NPC) office one day to see if NPC would be interested in accepting a donation of their interest in the property in Liberty Township. The property adjoins State Game Lands 115, so Tom thought NPC might be able to get some of the acreage into public ownership.
As members of NPC Tom and Beth knew NPC works with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Bureau of Forestry to increase the amount of land available for the public to use, and to improve access to public land to make it less difficult to use. Plus, Tom saw this as an opportunity to give back.
“As a kid, that’s all I hunted was State Game Lands,” Tom explained. “My family didn’t own any land to hunt on, so I hunted on State Game Lands and appreciated having a place to hunt. When I realized we might be able to help increase the amount of State Game Lands available it was a no-brainer. If I can give another kid a place to hunt that would be great.”
NPC’s staff reached out to the Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC) for more information about the location and to the Pennsylvania Game Commission to determine their interest. MARC was able to provide some very helpful information in understanding how the property fit on the landscape and the local recreational needs. The Pennsylvania Game Commission was interested in looking at the property and discussing how a project could proceed.
NPC set up a site visit that included the Pennsylvania Game Commission, MARC, Tom, and NPC. After seeing the property and how it fit in with the adjoining State Game Lands the Pennsylvania Game Commission was interested in working with NPC and the Stublers to get the acreage into public ownership.
After several meetings with the owner of the remaining one-third interest, the Pennsylvania Game Commission realized it would be most efficient for them to work directly with Tom and Beth on the donation instead of NPC receiving the donation from Tom and Beth, then working with the other landowner, before finally conveying the acreage to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The other owner wasn’t interested in selling his interest. He wanted one-third of the actual acreage. This meant discussing and understanding what areas of the property had the most sentimental value to the one-third owner, the various types of habitat on the property, what habitat areas have the most potential for the Game Commission’s wildlife management goals, how the road system connected, and thinking through the best way to set-up public access points and parking areas. That’s a lot. Everyone agreed it made the most sense for the Pennsylvania Game Commission to work directly with the one-third owner.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission accepted the two-thirds interest from Tom and Beth Stubler and worked through the process of surveying the property and preparing for a sub-division to separate about 200 acres off the parcel for the one-third landowner.
While NPC never took title to the property, Tom and Beth are convinced the project never would have happened without NPC’s staff helping them connect with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and helping to coordinate some of the early meetings and conversations. NPC’s “matchmaking” skills helped make this project a reality.
Most of the land is a forested mix of oak, hemlock, hickory, and maple. There are of blueberry, mountain laurel, and rhododendron in the shrub understory. A small stream meanders through the property. The Game Commission has started implementing their management plans for the property and neighbors to the property tell NPC how much they are enjoying hiking the old roads on the property.