NPC Wetlands: A History of Conserving Biodiversity

Wetlands are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally. They are rich with biodiversity and provide critical habitat for many species of migratory and resident birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, insects, and plants. In fact, 40% of all species live or breed in wetlands!  Wetlands also provide a variety of important ecosystem services, such as storing floodwaters, cleaning and recharging groundwater, sequestering carbon, trapping sediment, and filtering pollutants for clean water.  In addition, Wetlands offer economic opportunities for recreation activities like boating, fishing, hunting, bird-watching, and canoeing. The variety of life, or the biodiversity, that can be found in wetlands plays a major role balancing the health and wellness of the entire planet. 

Inland wetlands, such as the ones found in Pennsylvania, include marshes, ponds, lakes, fens, rivers, floodplains, and swamps.   For the past 30 years, NPC has played an active role in helping to conserve these delicate ecosystems across the region.  Here’s a look at some of those conserved land:

“The Muck”  is 1 of only 2 known American Bittern nesting sites in the state!

Pennsyl & Homer Webster
These two sisters properties located just north of Wellsboro cover a large area of wetland, locally known at the “The Muck.”  The area was once used to raise lettuce and celery, but today hosts as a breeding ground for a variety of birds, including Marsh Wrens, American Bitterns, Common Snipe, Virginia Rail and Sora Rail.  It’s been designated as one of Pennsylvania’s Important Bird Areas and offers a boardwalk and wildlife viewing blind for the public to enjoy.

Cavanaugh Access
Many people know the Cavanaugh Access Area because it provides quick access to the Pine Creek Trail.  However, this 132-acre parcel of land also helps conserve important wetlands along Marsh Creek.  The wetlands are extensive, fed by Canada Run, and close to wooded areas. This allows wildlife to use the wetlands and Creek by moving from the forest to the stream and wetlands and back.  Marsh Creek is a major tributary to Pine Creek. Marsh Creek meanders and bends through this property for nearly one mile. This Creek and its associated wetlands are a huge sponge that provide water year round that helps keep Pine Creek’s water cooler in the summer.

Clinton County Solid Waste Authority (CCSWA)
Wetland mitigation is the restoration, creation or enhancement of wetlands for the purpose of compensating for unavoidable impacts to wetlands at another location.  During the 1990’s, the CCSWA worked closely with the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a mitigation wetland to replace an area that was impacted during their expansion.  Today, NPC holds a 49-acre easement on the land, protecting the wetlands’ water, soil, fish and wildlife conservation values.

An easement protects the conservation values of a mitigation wetland on CCSWA land.

PPL Wetlands
This property was the first conservation easement of any type in Montour County back in 2008.  The entire conserved property consists of nearly 109 acres and includes a 5-acre mitigation wetland constructed by PPL, 59 acres of wooded wetland, cropland, and creek frontage.  Today, dragonflies can be found patrolling above the water and broods of ducks raise their young here.

Fossil Farm
The 150-acre easement holds a variety of unique environmental values, including a beaver pond and several other large wetland areas.  Catlin Hollow Creek flows through the property before entering Crooked Creek before winding its way to the Chesapeake Bay.  This property helps to conserve the water quality of not only this region, but plays a vital role on a much larger scale as well!  

Learn more about NPC’s other conserved properties with wetlands here:  John F Logue, Logue/McMahon, Maurey, Viani.

Wildlife habitat. Clean Water.  Climate Control.  Economic Benefits.  Recreational Opportunities.  Basically, wetlands are like ecological and societal powerhouses. 

Thank you to NPC’s members, partners, and supporters that helped conserve these special places for the benefit of our communities today and generations to come!

NPC Awarded Grants to Complete Projects at Two Sites in 2020!

By Reneé Carey

Canoe Access Development Fund Awards Grant for Avis Canoe Launch Improvements

This past November Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy applied for a grant to install a geocell at the Avis Canoe Launch and make some improvements to the parking area.

The path from the parking area down to Pine Creek is a compacted dirt path that gets slick when wet, making the walk down to the creek and getting in and out of the creek a little tricky. One way to address the mud at the Creek’s edge is with a geocell. The Bureau of Forestry and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have used these at other canoe access points across the state. The geocell is made of a heavy duty material, and when stretched out, it looks like a honeycomb. Stone is used to fill in the “hole” in the honeycomb. The geocell helps hold the stones in place and keeps the stones from squishing down into mud. This will make the access/landing area at the Avis Canoe Launch more pleasant to use, and a little safer.

The soon-to-be improved creek access at the Avis Canoe Launch

Stone will also be used to improve the pathway from the parking area down to the stream. Right now, there’s a gate at the top of the path. The gate will be replaced with a bollard (a single, solid, post). It will be easier for people to carry their equipment past the bollard than around the gate.

Local fire companies use the site to fill tanker trucks. By replacing the gate with a bollard we’re also making it easier for them to get the necessary hoses and equipment down to the water, saving them time during emergencies.

The parking area improvements will include more stone to help with mud and some signage. The vegetation will also be cut back and a split-rail fence installed to help visitors understand where the public access is and is not.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy manages the Canoe Access Development Fund. We’re grateful for the opportunity to apply and work with one of our partners in conservation!

Ownership of the Avis Canoe Launch was recently transferred to the Bureau of Foresty, ensuring that the Launch will remain open to the public for generations to come!  A ribbon cutting ceremony is being planned for this summer, following the completion of the site improvements.

Plunketts Creek Streambank Stabilization Funded

The Pennsylvania Chapter of Trout Unlimited recently awarded Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy a Coldwater Heritage Program grant to help cover the costs of stabilizing a stretch of Plunketts Creek in Plunketts Creek Township, Lycoming County.

Currently, eroding streambanks are adding sediment to Plunketts Creek and covering the substrate on the bottom. Plunketts Creek is a HQ-CWF (High Quality-Cold Water Fishery) that is also designated as a naturally reproducing trout stream. All of that means, the water quality of the stream is really good and native fish and other aquatic species can live there.

This project will stabilize the streambanks and immediately end the erosion at this site and stop sending sediment downstream. There is some concern that if not addressed these eroding streambanks could cause the stream to degrade and eventually be considered impaired. By immediately stabilizing the streambanks, we’ll eliminate the source of the sediment and over time, the sediment on the stream bottom will flush out of the system.

Plunketts Creek cutting through Camp Mountain in the village of Proctor.
Photo: Ruhrfisch,

Plunketts Creek is a relatively small watershed. Most of the headwaters of the watershed is forested with a large section of the stream on State Game Lands. During the 2011 and 2016 flooding the stream experienced at least 500 year floods each time. This caused significant erosion in this stream stretch and the erosion is continuing today.

This project will use a series of log framed deflectors to stabilize the eroding stream bank of Plunketts Creek. Random boulders will also be used in the project to create additional aquatic habitat. Partners on this project include the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, and several private landowners.

Thank you, again, to the Pennsylvania Chapter of Trout Unlimited for this project funding!

Frozen Alive! And other ways PA wildlife survive winter…

With the winter solstice approaching and the holiday season in full swing, what’s your go-to way of staying cozy and warm?  Throw another log on the fire?  Pull out your favorite sweater for an extra layer?  Or perhaps, you’re in the kitchen cooking up a hearty stew? 

As humans, we have many ways that we can keep out the cold by altering our environment.  But of course for our Pennsylvania wildlife, adjusting the thermostat is not an option.  Fortunately, they have a variety of amazing physical and behavioral adaptations to help them survive the winter.

Here’s a look at a few of those wintertime adaptations!

Snowshoe Hare
Lepus americanus
Photo credit: The National Wildlife Foundation

A New Coat
Some mammals, such as the snowshoe hare and ermine, change color to help camouflage themselves and elude predators.  In the fall, as the days become shorter, they’ll start to molt their brown fur and instead don a white coat to match the snow just in time for winter.

The white-tailed deer’s coat changes from a reddish-brown to a dark, grayish-brown in the winter months.  The winter coat consists of long, thick, hollow guard over wooly, densely packed underfur. That design locks in the deer’s body heat and provides insulation capable of holding snow on the animal’s back without melting.

While you might be quick to assume that all bears hibernate, it’s actually a common misconception!  Only a few Pennsylvania mammals are true metabolic hibernators, meaning their respiration and heartbeat slow dramatically, and body temperature falls to near freezing.  These include the woodchuck, the 2 jumping mouse species and all 11 bats common to the state.

Black bears, common in PA, fall into this winter survival strategy category. Torpor occurs when an animal lowers its heart and respiratory rate down to a point that saves energy, but is not the near death of hibernation.  Animals in torpor are capable of being aroused and/or waking occasionally to move about and eat.  Other common animals in PA that have extended periods of torpor include chipmunks, skunks, and raccoons.

American Black Bear,Ursus americanus
Photo credit:
A frozen wood frog, Lithobates sylvaticus
Photo credit:

Frozen Alive
Several species of frogs, including the common Wood Frog, are freeze tolerant, meaning capable of surviving episodes of freezing.  They’ll remain frozen under leaf litter or rotting logs throughout the winter, until their anti-freeze like blood helps them defrost.  They’ll be the first amphibians to congregate in vernal pools for mating in the spring.

Many animals find warmth in numbers throughout the winter.  Snakes usually move from a summer habitat to a winter den in caverns or crevices of rock formations.  In fact, many different species of snakes may even den together.

Honeybees really prove that they are the ultimate workers in the winter.  To insulate the colony as outside temperatures drop, the honey bee workers form a cluster around the queen and the brood (immature bees, from eggs to larvae) to keep them warm.  As the temperatures drop, the worker bees will generate heat by flexing the flight muscles located within the thorax of their bodies, keeping the inside of the cluster at a cozy 90 degrees.  Bees on the outside of the cluster trade places with those at the center to maintain the cluster temperature, and feed on stored honey in the hive throughout the winter. 

Honeybee cluster in winter, Apis mellifera
Photo credit:

Happy Winter Solstice everyone! Don’t let the cold weather stop you from enjoying the beautiful Pennsylvania wilds this winter….and be thankful you’re not a wood frog! 🙂

5 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving

Ahhh, Thanksgiving!  A whole day set aside to pause, reflect, and just appreciate what you have.  As you celebrate with friends and family over the coming days, here are some simple, eco-friendly tips to help you show some gratitude for Mother Nature along the way:

  1. Buy local.  When shopping for ingredients for your holiday meal, consider buying locally sourced food.  Buying local helps support our rural economy and reduces the transit waste associated with shipping foods long distance.
  2. Decorate with nature.  Ditch the plastic and synthetic decorations.  Instead, take a walk outside for tablescape inspiration.  Collect pinecones, acorns, colorful leaves and twigs to use as decoration or adorn the table with seasonal gourds that can be sent home as gifts for your guests at the end of the night.
    *Bonus idea:  Get the kids involved!  Send the kids or grandkids outside to collect and see what natural treasures catch their eyes.    
  3. Use the good the dishes and cloth napkins.  While the ease of using disposable dishes and plastic utensils may seem tempting, they create a TON of waste.  However, if you need to use disposable table settings, look for biodegradable or compostable options.
  4. Reduce food waste.  Speaking of compost, composting kitchen scraps can have a huge impact.  When we throw away kitchen scraps or leftovers, we’re throwing away all the water, fertilizer and fuel used to grow and transport that food.  At a landfill, that food waste releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.  Strive to repurpose leftovers (perhaps in a creative new recipe) and/or compost scraps to recycle those nutrients back into the soil.
  5. Shake off that post-meal drag by getting outside. Whether it’s a hike through the woods, a walk around the block, or a game of flag football – finding ways to connect with each other while also connecting with nature:  it’s a win/win. Find trails here and #OptOutside this Thanksgiving.

While Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, it’s also inevitably the kickoff to the holiday shopping season.  Here’s some quick ideas to keep in mind as you prepare to check off your gift list:

  • Avoid unnecessary purchases.  Buying less conserves our natural resources, reduces wastes in landfills, and lowers greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and shipping.
  • Buy gifts secondhand.  Shop thrift stores and online marketplaces to give new life to gently used (and often unique) items.
  • Give the gift of time or experience, instead of products and gadgets.
  • Shop for gifts by local artisans and fair trade products.
  • Support your local land trust.  You can help direct corporate giving to NPC while you shop this year, through Target Circle and Amazon Smile.  You can also join the #GivingTuesday global movement by donating to NPC on December 3rd.

Strive to incorporate one or even all of these ideas into your Thanksgiving traditions this year, and Mother Nature will thank you too!

NPC Throwback: The Cavanaugh Access Dedication

By Renee Carey, August 9, 2017

All Photos by Linda Stager

Project Summary:
The Pine Creek Rail Trail currently runs 62 miles from Wellsboro Junction in Tioga County to Jersey Shore in Lycoming County. The Trail is on the rail bed that once hauled celery, lumber, and ginseng from the region to markets throughout the world. The Trail is popular with tourists, Boy Scout Troops earning bicycling badges, and local residents staying healthy by biking and walking.

While the Trail is a wonderful way to spend part of your day, people have identified a need at the northern end of the Trail. People have said they’d like to have a place to sit and watch wildlife, as well as just take a break to enjoy the day. In this stretch the Trail runs along Marsh Creek and a large wetland complex. The Trail is bordered on both sides by private land with the Bureau of Forestry in charge of maintaining the Trail.

In October 2016 there was an opportunity to purchase 132 acres along this stretch of the Trail. The property was being sold at a court ordered auction. When the Tioga State Forest staff saw the auction sign they quickly called their central office in Harrisburg to see if there would be some way to buy this property.

Staff from Forestry’s central office called NPC’s office. There isn’t a way for the state to attend an auction and buy properties. The rules, systems, and laws in place require various state offices and state departments to review sales contracts for real estate. As you can imagine it takes time for these multiple reviews to take place.

NPC talked to the staff from Harrisburg on a Monday. The auction was set for a Thursday. NPC had 72 hours (almost to the minute) to figure out if the property had conservation value and if NPC could buy it.

The property has multiple conservation values. The NPC board approved staff attending the auction and bidding. NPC was the high bidder.

Chuck Dillon, Sen. Scarnoti’s office – Renee’ Carey, Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy Exec. Dir. – Rep. Matt Baker – Roy Siefert, Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, Board member Secretary – Cindy Adams Dunn, DCNR, Secretary – Chris Gastrock, DCNR, Tioga State Forest District Forester – Benn Carlson, DCNR, Tioga State Forest Assistant District Forester.

Other partners include:
Bear Meadows Lodge
Tiadaghton Audubon Society
Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group
Waste Management
Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority

Conservation Values
The property’s ecological features include wetlands along Marsh Creek. The wetlands are extensive, fed by Canada Run, and close to wooded areas. This allows wildlife to use the wetlands and Creek by moving from the forest to the stream and wetlands and back.

Tiadaghton Audubon Society’s members have been spending time tracking the bird species on the property. During a club wide event on a Saturday morning, they counted 47 species of birds.

Marsh Creek is a major tributary to Pine Creek. Marsh Creek meanders and bends through this property for nearly one mile. This Creek and its associated wetlands are a huge sponge that provide water year round that helps keep Pine Creek’s water cooler in the summer.

The property’s location is part of its recreational attributes. Because it’s almost exactly halfway between the Stokesdale access near Pag-Omar Farm Market and the Ansonia Access near where Marsh Creek enters Pine Creek, the Bureau of Forestry plans to create a parking area and access to the Pine Creek Rail Trail at the Cavanaugh Access property. A few benches will be added to the property to allow bikers, hikers, walkers and wanderers a place to sit rest, and enjoy the day. Forestry will eventually create a walking trail to allow people to see more of the wetlands, and hopefully see more wildlife.

Why “Cavanaugh” Access?
Earl Patrick Cavanaugh (“Pat’”) and Elsie Belle Colony Cavanaugh bought the property in 1939 from the George Adamy Estate and lived there for many years.

At the time they bought the property Pat worked on the crew of a pusher engine for the railroad. The crew worked a steam engine and would often wait on the siding at Tiadaghton for heavy freight trains or slow moving trains to come through. As the freight train passed the Tiadaghton siding, the pusher engine would attach to the back of the freight train and use the power of the pusher engine to help push the freight train up the grade.

Dr. George Durrwachter explained that pusher engines helped trains for many reasons. Dr. Durrwachter grew up along Pine Creek and the railroad at the village of Cammal. Cammal had a side track to allow one train to pull off so another could pass. The problem was once a train pulled off and stopped it was hard to get it moving again. The pusher crews would help these trains get moving again.

Dr. Durrwachter also remembers watching steam engines work to get started again after stopping at a water tower to refill. As the name implies, steam engines needed steam and used water to create that steam. Water towers were scattered along the rail line so the engines could refill. This meant the pusher engines were needed throughout the rail line to help the heavier trains start moving again after they refilled at the water tower.

“The Cavanaugh Tract’s acquisition is a shining example of how conservancies complement the goals and work of DCNR. After learning this acreage was headed toward auction, and with our Bureau of Forestry urging, this land promptly was purchased by the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy and soon will become part of the Tioga State Forest.

And what a tract is it! Rich in farming and railroad history, the acreage is comprised of woodlands, reverting farmland and wetlands, offering trail-users a welcoming place to rest. Wildlife watchers and birders, especially, are likely to return to this area again and again.”

Cindy Adams Dunn, Pennsylvania Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources

While we now walk and bike on the rail line for recreation the railroad had gentlemen whose job it was to walk specific sections of the track each day. These trackwalkers would do minor maintenance themselves, identify larger maintenance needs for the crews to undertake, and work to keep the track clear of rock slides and snow.

The Cavanaugh’s were involved in this aspect of the railroad’s operation too. Pat was named after his father, Patrick Josephus Cavanaugh, known as PJ. PJ was a track walker for the railroad. His section of the line was from Marsh Creek down to Tiadaghton. He walked down and back everyday to ensure the railroad’s trains could travel safely.

Pat Cavanaugh doesn’t just help us honor the region’s rail history, Pat also farmed during this time and helps us understand the region’s farming past. He became a full-time farmer when diesel began to replace steam and the pusher engines were phased out. Pat’s nephew, Grant, remembers a dairy at the property as well as Pat raising hunting dogs.

Farming wasn’t new to Pat. He and his brothers worked on the Adamy and Webster celery farms as kids.

Celery and lettuce was grown along Marsh Creek for decades. In 1901 four families owning land along the Creek entered into a legal agreement pledging to each other to keep the land properly drained and cared for to allow the celery and lettuce farming to continue.

Celery farming was a 9 to 10 month process. In mid-January seeds were planted and kept in “nurseries.” These greenhouses were built out of glass and set directly on the ground. One woman whose father was a celery farmer explained she used a salt shaker to plant the seeds in the greenhouses. She then would go back through with a watering can to set the seeds.

The farmers used steam boilers and woodstoves to keep the greenhouses warm. The fires had to be tended around the clock to keep the seedlings warm. Pat’s older brother worked as a “fire man” on the Webster’s farm beginning at age 13. The knowledge and experience he gained with the steam boiler on the farm helped him gain employment with the New York Central Rail Road. This greenhouse experience also helped Pat and his work with the pusher engines.

In April or May the seedlings were moved from the greenhouses to the fields in the wetlands, the Muck. The horse would be outfitted with “muck shoes” before cultivating the field. On some farms the “muck shoes” were blocks of wood strapped to the horse’s feet on other farms it was steel lid covers. The idea was to make a larger surface to distribute the horse’s weight. After the horses were done, the hand work began. The planting in the fields was done on hands and knees. The person setting the seedlings would use their finger to create a hole in the ground, place a seedling in the hole, and then create another hole six to eight inches away.

During harvest, a large knife was used to cut the celery out of the field. The celery was then taken to washing vats. After cleaned, the celery would be crated and staked on rail cars packed with ice. The railroad would set boxcars at designated rail sidings for the farmers to fill. Once the harvest was in and the car filled, the railroad would then hook up the box car and ship the celery.

Pat and Elsie Cavanaugh and their family tie together the railroad and farming legacy of the region. The Cavanaugh Access is a great way to remember the past and work toward a future of walking, biking, wildlife watching, nature photography, and sitting in the sunshine on a beautiful spring day.

“I think this project is the perfect example of what a regional land trust and its members can do,” said Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy Board of Directors Chair Stephen Schopfer “We can act quickly when there’s an opportunity that meets a community need. Then we can work with the Bureau of Forestry and other partners to keep the project moving ahead.”

Steve Schopfer, NPC Chair (former)
Media coverage from the Cavanaugh Access dedication ceremony.

Cavanaugh Access Today!
Photos by NPC Executive Director, Renee Carey


Aren’t We All Just a Little Misunderstood?: 3 Reasons to Love (not fear) Bats!

Photo Credit: NPS / Nick Hristov

Halloween is less than a week away and chances are you’ve seen some kind of bat décor on display to complement the “spooky” festivities.  It’s probably bats’ nocturnal nature, unique appearance, and folklore affiliations (hint, hint: “I vant to suck you’re blood”) that have long left bats misunderstood and sometimes even feared.  However, bats are actually amazing creatures, vital to our environment.  Today, we’re helping to kick off Bat Week 2019, an annual, international celebration of the role of bats in nature, by sharing 3 reasons why you really should LOVE bats.

Reason #1:  They help with pest control

Humans shouldn’t fear bats…but do you know who should?  Pests!  Most bats in North America eat insects, including nocturnal moths, bugs, beetles, flies and mosquitoes. Many of those insects on the menu are considered agricultural pests.  A single bat can eat up to its body weight in insects each night – that’s thousands of insects!  Eating all those pests helps lesson crop damage, reduces the use of pesticides, and saves farmers and forest managers billions of dollars each year.  

Lesser long-Nosed bat. Photo Credit: Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.

Reason #2:  They are excellent pollinators

Think of it this way, when it comes to pollination, the birds and bees work the dayshift, and when the night shift rolls around it’s time for bats to clock in.  While insects are by far the most common diet of bats worldwide, nectar-feeding bats play a critical role as pollinators for a wide variety of plants.  For example, in North American deserts, giant cacti and agave depend on bats for pollination.  A few other natural resources that heavily rely on bat pollinators include bananas, peaches, cloves, and balsa wood.

Reason #3:  And they’re great seed dispersers too!

Vast amounts of the world’s rainforests are cleared every year for logging, agriculture, and other industrial or urban expansions.  In addition, drought, fire, and disease continue to threaten these tropical locations.  Regenerating these large, cleared areas of forests is a complex, natural process that relies on a variety of animals to help with seed dispersal.  However, since fruit-eating bats disperse seeds from hardier, pioneer plants and can often cover larger distances than other animals, the seeds dropped by bats can account for up to 95 percent of the first new growth!

Little Brown Bat, Myotis lucifugus
Photo Credit: FLICKR/USFWS

With over 1400 species of bats worldwide, they are essential to not only the natural ecosystems but also global economies.  Here in PA, you can find 11 species of bats, all insect-eaters.   One of the most common bats you’ve probably seen fluttering about during the evening is the little brown bat.  Measuring about 3.5 inches in length, with a wingspan of 9 – 11 inches, this fierce, little hunter is capable of catching 1200 insects per hour.  During this time of year, little brown bats leave their summer roosts and move to tunnels, mineshafts and caves. It’s here that they’ll hibernate throughout the winter, and where you’ll find them in their iconic bat pose – clustered together and clinging to the ceiling.  Happy Bat Week!

…and Happy Halloween!

A Look Back at Little Shamokin Creek

The Northcentral Stream Partnership efforts to decrease erosion and improve aquatic habitat in the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed began in 2009, starting with in-stream restoration projects at just two sites.  Over the past decade, they have completed projects at 15+ sites in the watershed and are seeing some of the long term, positive changes from the fruits of their labor!

Get to know the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed:
The Little Shamokin Creek Watershed (LSCW) covers approximately 37 square miles and is a sub watershed of Shamokin Creek, originating in Northumberland County to include four municipalities (Rockefeller, Shamokin, Upper and Lower Augusta townships).  It is designated for protection of Cold Water Fishes (CWF). The LSCW is largely forested, 65%, with tree farms and deciduous stands.  Agricultural areas of mostly pastures and croplands make up an additional 30% of the watershed & urban/developed lands, 2%. (

A Before & After at project sites in the watershed:
Eroding and undercut stream banks, poor bank vegetation, poor riffle habitat, and embedded substrate are all visible signs of an agriculturally impaired stream. The Partnership’s use of in-stream stabilization structures and implementation of Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs), along with continued support from the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association (LSCWA) and the Northumberland County Conservation District, are steadily helping to bring the watershed back to health.

Signs of Success:
The Partnership has worked in collaboration with various educational institutions over the years to help document the pre and post-construction conditions of the streams.  Data collected by the Freshwater Research Institute at Susquehanna University* shows an increase of lithophilic fish and macroinvertebrates in the watershed.

Let’s Talk Lithophilic Fish
Lithophilic fish are species of fish that use the gravel bottoms in streams to spawn. Typically, the fish are laying their egg on the stream bottom and need to attach the eggs to rocks, or use the spaces between rocks to hide their eggs.

Lithophilic fish use the gravel bottoms in streams to spawn.

If the stream bottom is covered in silt and sediment, lithophilic fish may not reproduce at all, or reproduce in much smaller numbers. The sediment coating the rocky bottom may prevent eggs from “sticking” to the rocks and if the spaces between rocks are filled with sediment there may not be any place for the eggs, or the spaces may be smaller.

The in-stream structures the Partnership uses to stabilize streambanks also help to increase the speed of the water flow during normal conditions. These water flows are not necessarily “fast,” but there is movement in the water. That movement helps keep sediment from settling out onto the stream bottom and can help move sediment that is laying on the stream bottom.

Multi-log vanes and single-log vanes are variations of the same structure. The purpose is to remove pressure from the banks of the stream, and trap sediment along the bank to help restore the banks that were eroded. Typically, the Partners will install a series of these structures. As one structure helps add a little more speed to the water flow, the next structure downstream will trap the sediment from above while also helping to keep the water moving.

Making Sense of Macros
To collect data on the macroinvertebrates present, the scientists use a net with an opening shaped like a capital letter “D.” They shuffle their feet and stir up the bottom of the stream for a certain period of time and certain area. They then use the net, flat side down, to collect all the material that is dislodged from their kicking and shuffling. The material in the net is then transferred to labeled buckets. Formaldehyde is added to the contents to preserve the material. The lid is snapped on and the sample is taken back to the lab for processing.

Researches use d-nets to collect macro samples from the stream.

Back at the lab, the material is dumped into a tray, and a random section of the tray is isolated. This isolated section is then moved to another tray. The scientist then carefully and methodically pulls out the macroinvertebrates (water bugs and water worms). Once they are confident they have pulled everything out of the sample, they identify the species of macroinvertebrates found and tally how many of each species were in the sample.  This information is then used to determine how clean or how polluted the water is.

Like Lithophilic fish, macroinvertebrates use the stones and spaces between them on stream bottoms. You will find macroinvertebrates living in those gaps or building “homes” directly on rocks. Another way the log structures help macroinvertebrates is by providing woody material the stream. Macroinvertebrates eat wood and leaves. If there’s not wood and leaves in the stream, you’re not going to have the macroinvertebrates that live in clean water and feed fish that live in clean water.

Many of the project sites the Stream Partnership has worked at there aren’t trees along the stream. We’re working in an open pasture or cropland. This means there will not be a lot of leaves, twigs, or tree branches falling into these streams providing food for the macroinvertebrates. One of the functions trees along a stream will provide is that “food” for macros, which then become food for fish. The property owned by Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association is mostly wooded. The trees are larger and extend out over the stream far enough that they’re shading the stream in the summer (trout like cooler water) and the leaves and twigs can fall into the stream providing food.

*Source:  Unpublished data by Dr. Jon Niles and Mike Bilger, Freshwater Research Institute, Susquehanna University.

Clean Water = Healthy Communities
It sounds simple.  As a basic human need, protecting and cleaning up our local water sources should be a priority for every community.  Beyond being able to turn on your tap and know that you can get a glass of pure, clean water; a healthy watershed provides opportunities to fish, swim, and other forms of recreation and can be a catalyst for the local economy.  From fishing derbies to farmlands, your watershed is vital for your quality of life and your community.  Seen below is a father-daughter duo standing on a multi-log vane at LSCWA youth fishing derby – an annual event made possible through the ongoing efforts of LSCWA, the Partnership, and other conservation groups to clean-up the watershed.

A father-daughter duo fish Little Shamokin Creek during the annual fishing derby earlier this summer.  Photo Credit:  Northumberland County Conservation District.

While the research discussed above shows the data supporting the recovery of the watershed, another quick way to assess a stream’s health is to ask an angler!  Matt Miller, a Northumberland County native and current Director of Science Communications for the The Nature Conservancy, returned to the area to fish Little Shamokin Creek.  He shares about this positive experience in his first novel, Fishing through the Apocalypse.  You can meet Matt at a book-signing event being held at the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association’s pavilion on Monday, September 30 at 6:30pm.

Leading by Example
At the heart of the Northcentral Stream Partnership, are the dynamic people and organizations that have helped grow the programs impact.  As the Partnership evolved and maximized its efforts over the years, so too did the individuals involved.  Interns became professionals.  Landowners became stewards.  Volunteers became advocates.   

Chantel Shambach interned with the Northumberland County Conservation District (NCCD) back in 2014, assisting with projects throughout the county and even helping to take water samples in LSCW.  Today, she serves as the Watershed Specialist for NCCD and is seen here leading a group of students electrofishing at a project site, post-construction. Photo Credit: NCCD.

Now the Partnership has become a model for broader reaching plans to help improve water quality across the state and the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.  As a member of NPC or a partner, such as the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association, we hope you are as proud as we are to be a part of the solution to restore the health of Pennsylvania’s waterways.  Cheers to another 10 years!   

A Partnership is Born

It’s been 10 years since the Northcentral Stream Restoration Partnership was formed.  Driven by the motto, “Everyone does a little, so no one has to do a lot,” the Partnership was created to improve the water quality on agriculturally impaired streams in northcentral Pennsylvania.  Coordinated by NPC, and including state agencies (DEP & PFBC), county conservation districts, non-profit organizations, and willing landowners, the Partnership focused on 15 project sites across the region during that first construction season in 2009.  Since then, the partnership has worked on over 120 project sites and impacted 25 miles of stream. 

That’s 10 years of working together to improve the water quality for our communities, 10 years of recovering aquatic habitat, and 10 years of supporting PA’s working agricultural landscape.  For the partners, volunteers, and landowners that have seen or worked on a project site firsthand, you might also be thinking, “That’s A LOT of rocks, logs, rebar, and sweat equity!”

Delivering logs to a restoration site in Union County.

Here’s a quick recap of the problems the partnership is tackling, their goals, and the solutions they are implementing.

What’s the problem?
The vibrant farmlands that cover the countryside help make Northcentral PA such a desirable place to work, live and recreate.  During the settlement of the area, many of the trees throughout the watersheds were cleared for lumber then made way for crops, livestock, and homesteads.  The removal of the vegetation, the introduction of livestock, and increased stormwater runoff from pastures and hardened surfaces, whether compacted dirt, asphalt, or a roof; has led to the erosion of stream banks throughout the area.  Eroding stream banks are a direct source for sediment, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus to enter streams.  This sediment smothers aquatic life as it covers the stream’s substrate and impairs the overall stream health. 

Mud sills help stabilize the stream bank and provide fish habitat.

The Partnership’s Goals:
Reducing erosion and sedimentation into the region’s streams, is a goal of many local and state plans and initiatives working to improve the Chesapeake Bay.  In addition, the Partnership is working to:

  • Stabilize stream banks
  • Stabilize the riparian buffer
  • Increase filtration of run-off
  • Improve/create aquatic habitats
  • Support fish and aquatic life 

The Solution:
The partners use proven in-stream stabilization structures, such as log vanes and mudsills, to remove velocity and pressure from the stream banks.  They also implement Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs), such as walkways and fencing, to help reduce the impact livestock have on the streams by getting them out of the stream channel and back from the stream’s edge.  The type of structure used depends on the stream conditions, and takes into consideration how the water will react under normal flows and high water events.

Local university students help document the stream conditions.

Knowing the benefits:
Some restoration benefits happen instantly, such as the way the water flow responds to the new structures.  Others take time, as the vegetation grows creating a riparian buffer, soaking up excess nutrients and stabilizing the bank.  Macro-invertebrates and fish return to the water, finding habitat and renewed food sources.  Documenting the pre and post construction condition of the streams’ physical and biological conditions is a vital piece of the puzzle.  Aforementioned, the change and return to health is a gradual process, which is why NPC is extremely proud and thankful to our members for their support of the Partnership throughout the decade. 

As we continue to reflect on the past 10 years, we will be highlighting in our next blog these long-term signs of success at some of our earliest project sites in the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed.  And since the partnership wouldn’t be where it is today without the passionate people that had the foresight to take action 10 years ago, we’ll also be taking a moment to acknowledge the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed for their sustained efforts to help bring the watershed back to health in the area.  You can join us for this celebration at the upcoming Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association’s book signing event for local author, Matt Miller, on Monday, September 30th at 6:30 PM.  Learn more about Matt’s book, “Fishing through the Apocalypse,” and his connection to the area.

August Observations: From Meteor Showers to Mushrooms…

Did anyone else blink and realize it’s August?!  What could easily be one of the busiest times of the year – from checking off those final summer projects to getting the kids ready to go back to school – August can certainly feel a little frantic at times.  The sense of summer ending is mixing with the anticipation of fall.

But wait, don’t rush it! 

August is the bridge between between Summer and Autumn – between how the year has been and how the year will end.” – @positivelypresent

Sometimes, we all just need a little reminder to slow down and enjoy the moment we’re in.  If you’re looking for some ideas of how to ground you to this beautiful time of year, try tapping into the power of observation. Go take a walk in the woods or stare at the night sky to see if you can spot any of these natural marvels that are unique to the summer wind down.

Jewelweed. Photo Credit: USDA
  • Early and mid-summer blooms are fading, so the hummingbird is searching for new sources of nectar.  Fortunately, jewelweed (also known as spotted touch-me-not) is in bloom and its flowers are the perfect shape for the hummingbird’s long beak! And of course the hummingbird isn’t just taking and not giving – it’s serves as one of the main pollinators of jewelweed.
  • The annual Perseid meteor shower is one of the most beloved meteor showers of the year, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, where the shower peaks on warm summer nights. No matter where you live worldwide, the 2019 Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13.
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed.
Photo Credit: DNR
  • Some adult Monarch butterflies are taking wing, while their caterpillars are still feeding on the leaves of milkweed plants.   A female monarch will only lay her eggs on one of the many varieties of milkweed. Here in Pennsylvania, the native varieties include common milkweed, ornamental milkweed and swamp milkweed. Native milkweed species are the only plant these caterpillars will eat.
  • In white-tailed deer, testosterone is rising as the bucks prepare for mating season.  Their antlers are now hardened, and bucks are beginning to remove their antler velvet by rubbing against tree branches.
Photo Credit:
  • On the forest floor, the red berries of the jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) are easily seen.  These showy, bright red berries have the consistency of a ripe tomato, and are an attractive food source for birds such as thrushes, rodents, and other small mammals.
  • Box turtle eggs are hatching!  The shells of the baby box turtle are only about the size of a quarter.  Although, they are predominantly terrestrial and live in a variety of vegetative areas, including shrubby grasslands, marshy meadows, open woodlands and field forest edges. They are often found near streams or ponds, or areas that have experienced heavy rainfall.
Eastern box turtle.
Photo Credit:
Chicken-of-the-woods. Photo Credit: Cornell University
  • In late August, Chicken-of-the-woods, (Laetiporus sulphureus), also known as sulfur shelf mushroom, fruits on the decaying tree stumps or even on the trunks of trees.  They are bright orange above and bright yellow underside, growing in a shelf-like form, often in large clumps. It picked up its common name, because when foraged and cooked correctly, it supposedly tastes like chicken!

I hope these little natural nuggets of information inspire you to get outside, explore, and connect with the season of now.

Lessons Learned in Stream Restoration

By: Nate Stephens, NPC 2019 Summer Intern

Montour and Northumberland County conservation district interns work alongside Nate planting live stakes.

Interning with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy has given me the opportunity to gain valuable work experience within the environmental field. This experience has allowed me to develop my young career as I take the next step into the professional world. Currently, a senior at Bloomsburg University, majoring in Environmental, Geographical, Geological Sciences (or EGGS for short), I have been able to expand upon my education by applying it in the field, observing the roles of different agencies and departments, and networking with numerous professionals. Most of the work I have completed throughout the summer has been with the partnership on stream restoration projects and electrofishing.

From late May to the beginning of July, I worked with Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Union County Conservation District, and Department of Environmental Protection employees on stream restoration projects. During this time, we were able to complete the John Nolt property, the Griffith property, and the Sabo property.

On the job, stabilizing a streambank in Union County.

Each project was unique for work it needed; however, the goal always remained the same. Protect the toe of the slope from erosion and allow the stream easy access to flood plain. By installing the log structures, I got a first-hand experience on how you accomplish the first of these two goals. Certain structures kick water back into the main channel of the stream, while others protect the bank from the direct flow. Some of the structures, like a modified mudsill, serve a dual purpose. They absorb the energy from the current around bends, protecting the bank, as well as provide overhead cover, creating fish habitat. To accomplish the second goal, grading the stream bank is required. This means having an excavator move soil on the bank in a manner where water can go out instead of up during high flows. By giving water immediate access to flood plain, you slow down the velocity, which will limit the amount of erosion that can occur. After we have finished grading a section of stream bank, we will plant a riparian buffer. The roots from the riparian buffer stabilize the soil, which adds another preventative measure to limit erosion. Because of this experience, I learned that both the log structures and grading are equally important. To fully mitigate an impaired stream both aspects of the stream restoration process need to occur.

As I mentioned before, certain log structures create fish habitat. One of the opportunities that NPC offered was electrofishing previously completed projects. I worked with Susquehanna University collecting data on species population and biodiversity. We electro fished two previous projects where we found multiple brown trout. This was cool to experience because these were impaired streams where trout were not found prior to the completion of these projects. Trout are an indicator species for high water quality. To have wild trout, you must have cold sediment free water, lot of dissolved oxygen, and ample overhead cover. The work the NPC and their partnership have done show that stream restoration projects are worth the time and money.

Nate and team electrofishing sites where past streambank stabilization work was done. They re-visited sites to track the changes in aquatic habitat by looking at the fish and macroinvertebrates in the stream.

I am thankful for the opportunities and experiences so far this summer and look forward to the remainder of my internship with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy. Working with the different organizations throughout the summer has made me realize I would like to pursue a career with a county conservation district. This internship has allowed me to gain valuable work experience and network with professionals in that field.