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Land Conservation, Acquisition, and Stewardship

DCNR helps communities and nonprofit organizations across Pennsylvania acquire land for public parks and open space to be enjoyed by all for generations to come. 

DCNR supports land conservation and acquisition through several methods, including: 
  • The acquisition of lands that are added to state parks, state forests, and state gamelands
  • Grant funding assistance for acquisition of trail corridors, recreation areas, greenways, critical habitat, and other open space by local government or nonprofit organizations
  • Grant funding assistance for the purchase of conservation easements
  • Grant funding assistance to organizations for large, landscape-scale planning efforts

Many of these projects are administered by DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.

The annual grant funding used to support the acquisition and enhancement of these lands is made possible through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2). This program is supported by enabling legislation that dedicates funding from a variety of sources.

The C2P2 program has funded land acquisitions and easements for recreation and conservation across the commonwealth.

Land Acquisition

Land acquisition for public parks and open space may include the “fee simple” purchase of a parcel of land. A fee simple purchase transfers full ownership of the property, including the underlying title, to another party.

Grant funding also may be used to fund properties for public parks and open space protection with rights that have been severed.

For example, the underlying mineral rights may have been severed from the surface rights. In that case, the grantee may purchase the property and own the surface rights, while a different entity may own the mineral rights.

Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is an agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government for conservation purposes. The agreement limits certain uses on all or a portion of a property, while keeping the property in the landowner’s ownership and control.

Conservation easements funded by DCNR must follow the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association’s model easement.

The provisions listed in the DCNR Required Language for Conservation Easements document (DOC) also must be included as part of any conservation easement acquired or used as match under the C2P2 program.

Stewardship of Parks and Open Spaces

DCNR’s acquisition and development projects are funded through contracts requiring that the land be used for a certain length of time (often in perpetuity) for recreation and conservation use. 

Changes in Ownership or Use for DCNR-Funded Property

If a change in ownership or use does occur to a park or property funded by DCNR, this is called a “conversion.”

When a conversion is identified, certain requirements need to be met to address the change in use or ownership. The requirements may vary slightly, depending on the restrictions set by the legislation that funded the project.

Conversions may include disposition of the property through sale, transfer, abandonment, or other means. It also may involve accommodating “other uses” on a piece of property, including, but not limited to:

  • Energy development
  • Road expansion
  • Bridge replacement
  • Municipal buildings
  • Schools
  • Hotels
  • Commercial development
  • Telecommunication towers
  • Resource extraction

Resources for Municipal Officials, Planners, and Conservation Professionals

The Conservation Tools website is managed by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and made possible by support from many organizations. The website is a comprehensive resource for municipal officials and conservation and planning professionals.

Other helpful resources include: