In writing Conserving Mount Nittany, one of the things that struck me was how little land acquisition has been a part of the Mount Nittany Conservancy’s focus over the past two decades.

In speaking with one of their board members, I came to understand that the perspective was essentially: “Land is expensive.” But that’s always been the case. And I think in the coming decades land acquisition around the lower portions of the Mountain will become important.

As Lemont and the larger Nittany Valley area develops, it’ll become increasingly important to keep Mount Nittany’s skirt as natural as possible.

The first half century of Mount Nittany’s conservation was the story of large scale property acquisitions that define the Mountain in our imaginations. The next century will deal with tell the story of the successes or failures of the conservation of the less distantly visible properties that serve as the gateways to the Mountain and its trailhead. In most cases this will involve purchases of homes or lots, and either repurposing them or returning them to nature.

A recent Mountain hike is what got me thinking about this. And seeing the property above, located just near the Mount Nittany Road trailhead, specifically got me thinking about how to cultivate relationships with private land owners.

I don’t think the approach for Mountain conservation in the future will or should be about large scale fundraising campaigns for new lands. I think the Mount Nittany Conservancy should consider something like the following approach:

1. An annual development campaign that aims to generate a higher and more consistent level of unrestricted gifts which live in an account that’s treated as siloed and sacrosanct for the purpose of new property purchases.

2. In conjunction with professionalizing its development approach, the Mount Nittany Conservancy should actively form relationships with any/all property owners around the Mountain’s lower portions, with the goal of the owners agreeing to give the Mount Nittany Conservancy right of first offer if/when they should choose to sell their homes or lots.

This is a simple approach that involves two things the Mount Nittany Conservancy has historically been good at doing: storytelling and communication.

It simply expands on these strengths through a one page legal agreement with property owners to formally acknowledge that they’ll give the Mount Nittany Conservancy the first chance to buy their land if/when they ever decide to sell it.

And if they do, the Mount Nittany Conservancy would already be positioned at minimum to take out a loan for it and pay off the remaining through its annual campaigns.