Black Forest Express
Photo by Gerri Miller
Tuesday’s high, 39; overnight low, 33; .22” of rain
WED-ON AND OFF SHOWERS, HIGH 55
WED NIGHT LINGERING RAIN-LOW IN THE LOW 40s
THU-SCATTERED SHOWERS, HIGH 57
THU NIGHT-RAIN, LOW 39
FRI-RAIN TAPERS OFF HIGH 49
FRI NIGHT-LOW 31
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Obituary: Kenneth Hohn, Coudersport
Rep.Causer hold information meeting on forest conservation easements….State police warn of another scam…Elderly Ulysses man bilked out of money in phone scam…Two area women arrested for shoplifting…Roaring Branch man accused of domestic violence attack…Several instances of vandalism investigated in Elk County…..
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The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint), held an informational meeting on Monday to discuss forest conservation easements and recent PENNVEST actions that would finance the purchase of private forestlands and place conservation easements on a portion of that land.
At meetings last fall and in January, PENNVEST approved loans totaling $50.8 million, at an interest rate of 1 percent, to Lyme Timber Company, a timber management firm based in New Hampshire. The funding will be used toward the purchase of more than 60,000 acres of private forest land in Cameron, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, McKean and Potter counties. As part of the agreement, the company will place approximately 9,000 acres of the land into a permanent working forest conservation easement. The plan also includes an acid mine drainage abatement project amounting to about $700,000.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Dunn told committee members the use of forest conservation easements was one of the top recommendations set out by the governor’s Green Ribbon Task Force on Forest Products, Conservation and Jobs. The recommendation was aimed at addressing concerns about changes in ownership of large tracts of forestland and the potential impact of “parcelization” on the forest products industry and jobs. An easement, she noted, conserves the land while also keeping it in private hands and on the local tax rolls.
Causer questioned DCNR about whether the public would have access to the lands for hunting and recreation. According to John Norbeck, deputy secretary for parks and forestry, DCNR intends to make the lands within the easement open to the public. The remaining acreage is under private ownership and access would be determined by Lyme Timber. Causer indicated that was a concern to him since public money was used to help finance the purchase of those lands.
Dunn’s testimony was followed by that of Brion Johnson, executive director of PENNVEST, who outlined the mission of the agency, which includes clean water efforts. He discussed the steps taken to review the proposal from Lyme Timber Company and to obtain confirmation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it would be eligible for clean water funds. In response to questions from Causer and other lawmakers, he agreed to provide the committee with information from PENNVEST legal counsel as to how the agency believes the transactions qualify for funding under state law.
The next three testifiers expressed concern about the use of public funds at a very low interest rate to support the purchase of these forestlands by a private business. Keith Klingler, president of the Pennsylvania Landowners Association, believes it was not an appropriate use of PENNVEST funding and argued subdivision is not occurring on large forest tracts. His bigger concern is with “government land sprawl.”
Arthur Stewart and Tyler Martin, president and vice president of the Caledonia Land Company in Warren County, also indicated large scale timberlands are not being subdivided at “an unprecedented rate” and shared census data to support their position. Stewart lamented the use of a forest conservation easement in a region that already hosts vast amounts of state and federal land, saying it is another limitation to development opportunity. He also questioned the use of PENNVEST funds to benefit one private business owner over another.
Lawmakers posed a number of questions during the course of the meeting, many of which focused on the whether the PENNVEST loan to a private company to purchase private land was an appropriate use of public funds. Causer asked if additional proposals similar to the Lyme Timber proposal were in the works, and Johnson indicated there is one currently under review that involves land in Elk County. Johnson declined to share the application until it is presented to the PENNVEST board.
Members also expressed concern that PENNVEST was created to address, and should continue to prioritize, municipal water and sewer projects across the Commonwealth. Many communities are faced with deteriorating infrastructure as well as mandated upgrades, such as municipal separate storm sewer projects, and are in need of funding to support those efforts. Johnson indicated those projects are “front and center” for the agency.
Other issues discussed include the value of the timber on the land purchased by Lyme Timber Company, the number of jobs supported by the project, the potential for additional portions of this land to be placed in forest conservation easement status, the value and future use of the easement, ownership of mineral rights on the property and more.
For more information, written testimony and video of the informational meeting are available at www.repcau
State police have confirmed yet another scam. A local woman had a voice mail message telling her to call 844-280 -8144 for a refund from Microsoft which is supposedly going out of business. The caller told the woman to go into her computer and they would do something and refund her money in an amount of about $500.00. This is a scam but their calls are persistent. The victim told state police she has received numerous such calls everyday., State police verified it is a scam and warned about acting upon the request. If you believe Microsoft is going out of business, I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you.
A Roaring Branch PA man has been charged with harassment and unwanted physical contact for a domestic violence assault allegedly occurring on the evening of March 19. State police claim 49 year old Vincent Robinson Jr. assaulted his wife, Ann, during an argument in their home on Canton Street. He is now facing charges in District Court.
An ID theft is being investigated by state police at Coudersport. James McPherson, 79 of Ulysses received several phone calls from someone claiming to be from Direct TV telling him that he needed systems updates and must provide a down payment. Finally, McPherson gave in and provided a credit card number which the criminals used to purchase items from a clothing store in the amount of $159.50.
State police at Coudersport have arrested 45 year old Heather Weimer of Wellsville, NY for theft. Authorities allege Weimer stole six Bic lighters from the Genesee Acorn Market last Friday.
Retail theft charges have also been filed against a Ridgway woman. State police in that town assert 30 year old Heather Hulton took three items from the St. Marys Walmart Monday evening . The merchandise was valued a total of $12.02 and the charges have been filed with a Distract Judge.
A 19 year old Bolivar, NY resident has been arrested for drug possession by state police at the Coudersport barracks. Troopers explained that when they stopped Robert Thatcher on Route 6 in Ulysses Township early last Friday morning they found him in possess of a small amount of pot and some drug paraphernalia.
State police at Ridgway are looking for vandals who spray painted several bridges at various locations around Weedville in Jay Toiwnship between 8:00 pm Sunday and 6:00 am Monday.
–Kenneth Wayne Hohn, 74, a longtime resident of Coudersport, formerly of Mira Loma, California, passed away in his home with his loving wife by his side on Saturday, March 24, 2018, after a long illness.