A biologist working with a state program to inventory rare species on ecologically significant land throughout Pennsylvania asked the Salisbury School Board for permission Monday to study a section of the district's land on South Mountain.
Rocky Gleason, a biologist working with the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation Natural and Resources, said the agencies are taking an inventory of flora and fauna in areas of "ecological significance" around the state because they are rare or have other "exemplary concerns."
Gleason said municipalities in Lehigh and Northampton counties are updating their Natural Resources Inventories, which were last completed about 10 to 15 years ago.
Scientists working on the updates took aerial photographs of forests and wetlands, identified areas of concern, and sent about 450 letters of concern to landowners requesting permission to visit.
"You are landholders of one area," Gleason told the board's operations committee. "Can we go walk on your property?"
Vice President Keith Reinsmith wanted to know when the inventory would be and how long it would take.Gleason said it would take a couple hours on a single day, either in the morning or afternoon, but they might need to determine some areas need to be studied during a particular season. He said they would walk, not drive on the property.
President Russell Giordano asked if Salisbury Township officials had asked Gleason to conduct the study, because he found the timing "curious."
"I am not interested in pursuing anything tying our hands in developing that property," Giordano said. "The people who don't want it developed, I wouldn't be surprised if they found the animal that needs to be found and importing it [on the school district's land]," Giordano said.
Gleason said he had not been approached by anyone in the township. "We did this completely from aerial photos," he said.
The school district rejected an offer several years ago by Salisbury Township to buy and protect the land on E. Emmaus Avenue for $1.2 million. Township Manager Randy Soriano said earlier this week they are still in discussions.
The state conservation agency's final report, which is expected to completed by June 2013, will be sent to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Gleason said.
Reinsmith said the board would need more time to discuss the request to study the school district's land.