Brief History

Brief History

Founding Date: 2/1/1994
Original Name: Back Mountain Regional Land Trust
Name Changed to North Branch Land Trust on 6/5/2000

Mission Statement
…The North Branch Land Trust works in partnership with landowners and their communities to conserve the natural, working, and scenic landscapes in Northeastern Pennsylvania that sustain us….

North Branch Land Trust is a private non-profit land conservation organization focused on helping landowners conserve their property and helping communities develop smart growth strategies for the benefit of their citizens. Primarily, the Land Trust accomplishes its mission by accepting donations of development or subdivision rights on land, through a legal agreement called a conservation easement. Less frequently, the Land Trust will seek financial resources to purchase development rights on land. The Land Trust is also the receptacle for gifts of land or other real property. North Branch Land Trust relies almost exclusively on membership donations, gifts and grants to accomplish its mission.

A Brief History
The North Branch Land Trust traces its beginnings to 1993, when a small group of citizens in the Back Mountain area of Northeastern Pennsylvania, just north of Wilkes-Barre, became concerned by the effects of rapid growth and development on their rural communities. The founders watched farms and open spaces disappear, and wondered if the fundamental values of their rural lifestyle were in danger.

In 1995, a couple from Maryland expressed an interest in placing a conservation easement on their 43-acre family property in Luzerne County near Shickshinny. The Back Mountain group worked with the couple to accomplish their wishes and two dreams became a reality.

The Land Trust hired its first professional staff person in 1996. By 1997, the Land Trust had completed its second conservation easement, this one on 37 acres bordering Mehoopany Creek in Wyoming County.

In August 2003—with a generous gift from an anonymous source—the Land Trust was able to add its second professional position, a land protection specialist. Also in 2003, the Land Trust acquired the Noxen Train Depot and began making plans to renovate this historically significant structure. 2004 through 2005 saw 4,610 acres conserved highlighted by an easement acquisition of the 3,015-acre New Pocono Trust property in Bear Creek, PA.

In 2006, the Land Trust hired its first Executive Director and in 2007 conserved or acquired fourteen properties including the 667-acre Howland Property located on the Vosburg Neck along the Susquehanna River in Wyoming County. The Land Trust took ownership of the Howland Estate and dedicated it as the Howland Preserve to honor Mr. Ernest Howland and acknowledge his remarkable act of philanthropy. The Land Trust reached two milestones in 2007, becoming one of the first Land Trusts in the country to become accredited by the national Land Trust Association and also completing its first easement acquisition through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Community Conservation Partners in Planning (C2P2) Grant with the protection of the 281 acre Camp Lackawanna property in Wyoming County.

In 2008, the Land Trust completed a second easement acquisition through the Pennsylvania DCNR C2P2 Grant Program with the protection of the 254-acre American Legion property in Mountain Top, PA.
A significant event in 2008 was the Land Trust being awarded accredited status by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission after completing the Commission’s second pilot round of a new national program. This program is an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance (LTA). Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The accreditation seal lets the public know that the accredited land trust has undergone an extensive, external review of the governance and management of its organization and the systems and policies it uses to protect land. 39 organizations including NBLT formerly received accredited status at The National Land Conservation Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

2,182 acres were conserved in 2009 with the highlight being the completion of another DCNR C2P2 grant project – a 1,880-acre conservation easement on the Bear Creek Lutheran Camp property in Bear Creek Township, PA. The year 2009 ended on a high note with the completion of another DCNR C2P2 grant project – a 1,880-acre conservation easement on the Bear Creek Lutheran Camp property in Bear Creek Township, PA., pushing the Land Trust’s total protected lands over the 10,000-acre mark.
Since 2009 and up to end of 2013 the Land Trust has acquired seven properties totaling 852 acres and placed conservation easements on four properties totaling 835 acres. The most significant project being a gift of 400 acres from the George and Lillian Picton Estate. In honor of George and Lillian Picton NBLT has named the property the George and Lillian Picton Wildlife Sanctuary.

In 2014 and 2015 NBLT permanently protected over 3,000 acres the majority of which will be transferred to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. The total lands permanently protected by NBLT since its inception in 1994 is now over 16,000 acres.

Geographic and Conservation Focus
The work of the North Branch Land Trust (NBLT) focuses on the watersheds and other lands that frame the North Branch of the Susquehanna River, hence our name. Since 1995, there have been 60 properties on which landowners have donated development rights or where NBLT has taken ownership. The map below shows the general location of these properties. Though the Land Trust mainly works within the north branch of the Susquehanna River watershed, it will, from time-to-time, consider conservation projects and conserve property outside this watershed. The main conservation focus is to protect the regions important natural lands for, indigenous flora and fauna habitat, watershed protection, agriculture, passive recreation activities, and scenic views.

The Land Trust currently has four full time employees and two part time employees. The Trust has an active Board of Directors which governs the strategic direction of the organization. The Trusts strategic plans for ongoing operations and for regional land conservation efforts are available for review at the Land Trust office at 251 Huntsville-Idetown Road, Dallas, PA 18612.

Going forward North Branch will continue to work to conserve key natural land assets in the region and conduct community outreach in an effort to educate citizens on the importance of natural areas, open space, and smart development practices. With continued support from the community and an eye on the mission of conserving the lands that sustain us, North Branch Land Trust looks to a bright future.

For additional information about North Branch Land Trust, land conservation in general, or about protecting your land in perpetuity, please contact NBLT via email at or call the office at 570 310-1781.

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251 Huntsville-Idetown Rd., Dallas, PA 18612
Phone: (570) 310-1781 | Fax: (570) 310-1791