LEWISBURG – On Saturday afternoon, October 25, a 25-year anniversary celebration was held for local landowners with the Merrill Linn Conservancy at the Campus Theatre in Lewisburg. Clyde Peeling from Montgomery was keynote speaker and gave an educational presentation on how property owners can help preserve their own lands from being endangered just by linking landscapes and corridors to each other. “Sustaining bio-diversity is essential,” he said. Those lands that are more populated, have more habitats, whereas the smaller populations of wildlife are more vulnerable to extinction. “Giant predators disappear first,” he said.
Peeling feels that northern PA will eventually lose part of their diversity because of the gas drilling which has a potential for impacting salamanders and frogs. “Over a long period of time, this will affect breeding,” he added. “Our region has become very fragmented.” For example, a tortoise can live well over 100 years, but life spans can be shortened.
Peeling presented facts on wildlife endangerment and how some animal species are almost classified as being extinct. He brought in four examples to show the audience – a salamander, box turtle, geico lizard, and a timber rattlesnake.
To offset this fragmentation, ‘Linking the Landscapes’ is a national initiative to network with natural areas. The Merrill Linn Conservancy is acting on it to encourage landowners to set up natural areas on their property in order to attract native vegetation and wildlife. “We need to link to one another and build a corridor network so plants and animals can have a gene flow in many directions. We can still save a large part of our natural heritage,” said Clyde Peeling. He concluded by stating that 99 percent of species have already become extinct according to scientific evidence. “We are losing about 10,000 species a year due to fragmentation.”
Warren G. Abrahamson, a biology professor at Bucknell and a certified senior ecologist, recommends homeowners to build pollinator gardens. “We can alter our own back yards,” he said. “Don’t be so grass cut crazy,” he implored. “Create areas with shrubs and trees. We can do this and connect individual neighborhoods too,” he added.
Also working with land conservancies will help to protect prime land and waterways throughout the region. “Partner with them and set up land trusts,” encouraged Abrahamson.
Merrill Linn Conservancy now manages 1,140 acres for landowners in about 5 counties, including Lycoming. Dr. Michael Gross and his wife Rickie from Hughesville were one of the property owners who were recognized for their preservation efforts. The couple has partnered with the Conservancy to protect their 270 acre property known as Glacier Pools Preserve so that vegetation and wildlife can continue to flourish. 20 vernal pools inhabit the property and nature trails loop through meadows and forest. Directions, trails and a map can be seen on their website at www.glacierpoolspreserve.com for the public to access.
The Linking Landscapes initiative is a partnership with DCNR, and the Nature Conservancy in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to interact with high priority sights in Pennsylvania.
Members say that Lycoming County has some significant landscapes that also need protected which can link to protect others. “Land owners need to be willing to protect and preserve. Other conservancies may come on board to support this initiative,” Abrahamson. replied. Earlier this year land assessments were set through DCNR who did full scale examinations of properties with unique features and plants with breeding sites for special species and insects.
This is a state wide initiative according to the Ecological Society of America.