Project on Plunketts Creek Recognized with Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence

“Every year the Environmental Excellence honorees show the creative and innovative ways we can improve our environment, and this year is no different,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “The projects highlighted this year show tremendous diversity in how they are making Pennsylvania a better place.”

The Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy and Pennsylvania Game Commission’s efforts on Plunketts Creek at Proctor are being recognized with a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. The project removed an earthern berm, reconnected Plunkeets Creek to its floodplain, allowed improvements to Huckle Run Road, and works to reduce flooding for neighbors at the site and downstream.

Pennsylvania Game Commission food and cover crews out of Allenwood and English Center worked on all phases of the project at Plunketts Creek

The project was evaluated for the degree of environmental protection, innovation, partnership, economic impact, consideration of climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice, as well as outcomes achieved. It, along with 14 other projects from across the state, were recognized with the 2022 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in Harrisburg.

During the event, DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said, “It is always a privilege to spotlight people going above and beyond to improve the environment and make our great outdoor spaces more accessible. Each of the projects awarded this year will leave a positive lasting legacy for Pennsylvania.”

This project’s lasting legacy will be less flooding, more ecological functioning, and better water quality. Plunketts Creek is a High Quality-Cold Water Fishery with naturally reproducing trout. The Creek is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the water in the Creek gets to the Bay through Loyalsock Creek, the West Branch Susquehanna River, and then the Susquehanna River

In Phase 1 in 2020 NPC and PGC stabilized the eroding streambanks on an 850 foot stretch of Plunketts Creek using log and rock structures designed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. The eroding streambanks were adding sediment to the stream and covering the substrate on the bottom. By immediately stabilizing the streambanks, the source of the sediment was eliminated. Over time, the sediment on the stream bottom will flush out of the system.

In 2021, as Phase 2, the partners removed 2,200 linear feet of the earthen berm along Plunketts Creek and restored the Creek’s access to the floodplain, lowering adjacent flood elevations and the erosive potential of the stream. One of the outstanding attributes of the project was the 333rd Engineering Company of the US Army Reserves, based in Reading, PA, completed the project as their summer 2021 training exercise. The soldiers were able to get 3 weeks of training while also providing a huge environmental benefit to the community.

A Dirt and Gravel Road Project on Huckle Run Road (also on State Game Lands 134) received over 1,500 truckloads (approximately 15,000 tons) of material from the berm. The dirt road was incised forcing rain water and snow melt to run down the road. This directed sediment into nearby Huckle Run (also High Quality with Naturally Reproducing Trout). In addition to the water quality improvements, this road project also improves public access. Huckle Run Road will soon be open to allow the public to access the State Game Lands.

The project was only possible because of the efforts of a number of partners working together. One of the key partners was the 1st Platoon of the 333rd Engineering Company of the US Army Reserves. The Reservists used the project as their 2021 summer training project. Their assistance was possible because of the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program.

The partners who worked with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy and Pennsylvania Game Commission to help make the project possible were:

  • Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
  • Lycoming County Conservation District
  • 333rd Engineering Company of US Army Reserves
  • Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds
  • Susquehanna River Basin Commission
  • PA Council of Trout Unlimited
  • Coldwater Heritage Program
  • Loyalsock Creek Men’s Club
  • Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association
  • American Legion Post 104 (Montoursville, PA)

If you’re interested in learning more about the project, check out these blog posts:

Army Reserve Engineering Unit Partnership with NPC and PA Game Commision

Plunketts Creek Berm Removal One Step Closer

333rd Makes Progress at Plunketts Creek

Berm Removal Along Plunketts Creek Wraps Up

Survey Work at Plunketts Creek

Plunketts Creek Using Its Floodplain

Thank you McCormick Law Firm for supporting conservation!

April Showers and May Flowers

By Sara Schlesinger

April showers truly bring May Flowers! While visiting easements in Columbia and Lycoming Counties this past week, I spotted several native wildflowers in bloom.

Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefloia) is a perennial flower in the buttercup family with 5 white petals and a distinctive musky smell. Being that they are one of the earliest blooming flowers in our region, wood anemones are a great source of nectar for early pollinators.

Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) have large umbrella-likes leaves that grow to approximately 18” tall and up to 12” across, developing a single white flower. Typically found in damp, open woods, mayapples use rhizomes to colonize the forest floor, creating dense mats. Mayapples are currently unfurling their leaves and will begin to blossom later this month.

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) resemble a pair of pantaloons hanging upside-down on a clothes-line, with yellow around ‘the waist.’ They may be confused with Bleeding Hearts and Squirrel Corn, however these 2 have a more ‘heart-shaped’ flower, and lack the yellow coloring at the end of the spurs. The finely compound leaves of Dutchman’s Breeches resemble ferns. Refrain from collecting Dutchman’s Breeches, as their flowers wilt almost immediately upon being picked.

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) is a perennial woodland species that thrives in shady areas with moist soil. They display clusters of dainty yellowish-green flowers, once the flowers have fallen, vivid-blue berries take their place.

Yellow Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) have a pair of brownish mottled leaves that resemble the markings of a brook trout, with a single yellow lily-shaped flower. It takes several years from germination for the plant to reach maturity and develop a flower, younger plants with only one leaf will not flower. Yellow Trout Lilies are found in areas with rich, moist soil that receive ample sunlight in early spring.

Tussock Sedge (Carex stricta) is a vigorous wetland plant that forms mounded clumps and grows to approximately 3’ tall. The large, dense root system, and its resiliency to deer browsing make the Tussocks Sedge an excellent choice for erosion control!

Thank you to McCormick Law Firm for supporting conservation!

A Few Invasives to Watch for this Spring

As you’re working in your yard this spring and summer think about what invasive plants you have and whether or not you can remove them and clear them out.

Burning bush

Invasive plants are often times beautiful to those who don’t know the ugly truth about them. Invasive plants, trees, and shrubs out-compete native species for resources and grow more rapidly than their native counterparts, and can eventually take over entire landscapes. Knowing what not to plant is as important as being able to identify invasive plant species that may already exist on your property. Early identification and management of invasive species are key to helping native flora flourish as nature had intended. Many of the invasive plants that we see today had been brought over from Europe and Asia for ornamental, landscaping purposes; some were brought to the U.S. over 100 years ago!

Burning bush stem

Burning bush, also referred to as winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus) was introduced as an ornamental shrub in the 1800’s for its vibrant red fall foliage. Often found in large thickets due to its prolific seed production, Burning bush outcompetes native plants due to the dense shade that it creates, while itself being shade tolerant and having no native pests. This is an easily identifiable invasive due to its prominent corky “wings” that run along the stems, and can grow to 15’ tall. When caught early, young plants can be hand-pulled from loose soil, larger more established shrubs require stump grinding or the addition of a glyphosate foliar application. Native shrubs that are a more ecologically friendly alternative include Strawberry Bush, Spicebush, Red Chokecherry, and Common Winterberry.

Bark of Alianthus, a.k.a. Tree-of-heaven

Ailanthus altissima, more commonly known as ‘Tree-of-heaven’ is not as heavenly as it may sound, the name refers to its rapid growth, and will quickly shade-out smaller plants. Roots of Ailanthus produce chemicals that prevent the establishment of other plants nearby, and can cause damage to sewer lines and house foundations due to its swift growth. In addition to Ailanthus being an invasive species itself, it also plays host to the Spotted Lanternfly which is an agricultural nightmare that has been spreading its way across Pennsylvania since 2014. Ailanthus looks similar to sumac and walnut trees, however the bark of Ailanthus has a white, diamond like pattern, broken twigs smell of burnt peanut butter, smooth leaf margins, and the tope leaves turn reddish in the summer. Hack and squirt or basal bark applications are found to be the most effective management for Ailanthus. Desirable natives with similar looking compound leaves include Staghorn Sumac and Black Walnut.

Alianthus, a.k.a. Tree-of-heaven

For more information on identification and management of these and other invasive plants visit www.dcnr.pa.gov/Conservation/WildPlants/InvasivePlants or extension.psu.edu

Thank you to McCormick Law Firm for their support!

Underfoot: Daffodil Connections

By, Susan Sprout

English poet William Wordsworth (1770 to 1850) made his home in the Lake District of northwestern England for sixty of his eighty years.  A lover of nature, he wrote, “Come forth into the light of things, and let nature be your teacher.” In 1807, he made Lake Windermere’s “host of golden daffodils” famous in his poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”. As a sixth-grade student, I was required to memorize his poem. I think of him, and my teacher, fondly each and every spring as the local daffodil population blooms.  

In 1905, artist and writer Beatrix Potter bought property in the Lake District, an area where she had spent childhood holidays with her family. She set many of her Peter Rabbit books there and used money from the sales of them and her paintings to support a movement to prevent development on Windermere’s lakeshore. She also helped a group who protested against widening a road that passed through Wordsworth’s daffodil field! She wrote,”This little corner of the country should be kept unchanged for people who appreciate its beauty”. An old friend of hers was one of the founders of England’s National Trust, created in 1895. Beatrix supported the Trust by willing 4,000 acres of land and fourteen farms to it. In 1951, the Lake District was made a national park. In 2017, it became a World Heritage Site. Small beginnings can lead to great outcomes!

Planted for naturalization

It’s daffodil time right now in Pennsylvania. Perhaps you have planted their bulbs to grow and spread on your property. They, at ground level, along with the taller Forsythia bushes, certainly brighten our landscape. Daffodils are not native plants. They could have been brought here from many parts of Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean region, or Western Asia where they grow naturally. They are good plants for woods’ clearings, grasslands, rocky ground. I’ve found them in patches along creeks where they probably washed in from upstream.

Roadside daffodils

Daffodils are in the genus Narcissus. Folks seem to use both names interchangeably. Botanists who studied them have changed their family name and identified a whole bunch of species and cultivars based on frilly-edged or smooth, center coronas like bowls or trumpets, with the same or contrasting colors, having multiple flower stems. Yikes, our daff-o-down-dillies are pretty complicated!  And pretty looking, but definitely not for eating. Even deer don’t like them. They contain lycorine, a bad-tasting alkaloid, but good for medical science that has found promising uses for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

Little Pine Creek Project a Step Closer

The Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy is partnering with Little Pine State Park (DCNR Bureau of State Parks), the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and Lycoming County Conservation District on a project to address eroding streambanks along Little Pine Creek within Little Pine State Park. Using log and rock structures approximately 1,600 feet of the streambank will be stabilized and some floodplain access restored.

Thanks to the Coldwater Heritage Partnership the project took one step closer to implementation. The Coldwater Heritage Partnership recently announced their spring grants and the project at Little Pine was awarded!!

If you’re familiar with the Park we’re looking at the stream stretch starting around the shooting range going downstream. Little Pine Creek is a Cold Water Fishery that is attaining for aquatic resources. The project site is in a stretch of the stream that also has naturally reproducing trout and is a Keystone Select trout stream.

Little Pine Creek’s streambanks are eroding, creating bank heights of 8 to 10 feet from water’s edge to the top of bank. The sediment from the eroding stream banks is entering the stream system and depositing in the area of this proposed project and down stream.

To give you some idea of the amount of sediment coming into the system we can use the location of the swimming buoys at Little Pine State Park’s lake which is downstream. The buoys are placed where there is 4.5 feet of water depth. In 2020 the buoys were placed approximately 75-feet from shore, in 2021 they were placed approximately 125 feet from shore. The buoys had to move further out because of the sediment filling in the lake.

As you will see in the aerial photos (below) comparing the site from 1995 (on left) to 2015 (on right) sediment is filling in the lake at Little Pine State Park. The sediment is from the eroding stream banks.

By working to eliminate sources of sediment and restore access to the floodplains the hope is Little Pine Creek can remain a Cold Water Fishery and continue to be attaining for aquatic resources as well as meet these other designations.

Jason Detar is a fisheries biologist for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and serves on the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture. He conducted a habitat analysis of Little Pine Creek. When asked by email his thoughts on this project he responded with:

“Substantial streambank erosion is occurring throughout the proposed project reach on Little Pine Creek. This has resulted in significant sediment transport downstream in the greater Pine Creek/West Branch Susquehanna/Susquehanna River watersheds impacting water quality and habitat. The Little Pine Creek stream channel is becoming overly wide and shallow from the bank erosion.  Little Pine Creek is unique in that it is a large stream that supports a wild Brook Trout population throughout the project reach. Brook Trout are intolerant of sediment and elevated water temperature. Completion of the project will improve water quality by reducing erosion and sediment deposition and improve habitat for wild Brook Trout.”

Thank you to the following organizations for their help with the application!

  • Lloyd Wilson Chapter of TU
  • Lycoming County Conservation District
  • Pine Creek Preservation Association
  • Pine Creek Watershed Council

We’ll be posting project updates here and on NPC’s social media account!

Thank you to C&N Bank for supporting conservation!

How Did the Cow Cross the Stream?

It’s not “why did the chicken cross the road?” it’s “how did the cow cross the stream?”

This Northumberland County landowner had eroding stream banks. He tried fencing the cows out of the stream (good move on his part), but the erosion already had a good foot hold.

The Conservation District had the stream partners look at the site. A crossing design and streambank design were completed.

The stream crossing was the first step. The stream team went out and did this on a Friday, so the “typical” streambank work could begin the next Monday.

The photos are from the about halfway point. The far bank is the before and hasn’t been worked on yet. The near bank is almost after (still a little work to be done).

Now, the cows will be crossing the stream using a stabilized stream crossing. Having a stable surface will not only reduce sediment and improve water quality, but it’s also safer for the cows.

Thank you to NPC’s members for their help in making these projects and cleaner water possible.

UNDERFOOT AND IN THE AIR – PETRICHOR!

By Susan Sprout

You know that smell – digging in the soil, when rain is on the way or just over, that earthy, musty, spring-like scent coming your way on a breeze. It is petrichor, Greek for stone and blood of the gods, AND there is chemistry involved! A combination of geosmin, (C12 H22 O) an alcohol released by dead microbes, PLUS ozone, an ion of oxygen produced by lightning and other atmospheric gases, PLUS the aromatic oils of living and dried plants EQUALS petrichor! That wonderful, standing out on the porch and sniffing the air, “It’s sprinkling out” smell! I didn’t know it had a name. The word “petrichor” was just coined in 1964 by two chemists, although people have been smelling it forever. 

The major component of petrichor that we need to know more about is the geosmin, or earth smell, which provides the scent of dead soil bacteria. When raindrops fall on a porous surface like dirt, aerosols are released that carry the smell created by bacteria, like streptomyces, in those small bubbles, up, up and away on the wind. We humans appear to be extremely sensitive to geosmin, a trait we may have picked up and kept on our evolutionary journey to now. This may have come about due to our ancestors’ need to find water sources in order to survive. Certainly rain had a very important impact on their food sources as well.

We can smell and taste the geosmin molecule in other places besides the air. In fact, some folks don’t like where it occurs. For example, in community water supplies, especially those places that depend on surface water; the skin and dark muscle tissue of fish; the taste of mushrooms and root vegetables like beets and carrots. Researchers have found that using an acid in or on some of the above will decompose the geosmin molecules into odorless substances.  Can you make the connection…lemon slices in the water served by restaurants…lemon juice squirted on fish and other seafood…the use of vinegar to “pickle” beets and other root veggies…Got it?

Humans do seem to like the smell, however. Chemical companies actually create synthetic versions of geosmin that are used in perfumes, air fresheners, scented candles, and a lot of other places we may not know about. The bottom line is that odors can trigger both positive and negative emotions because they are associated with specific memories. What memories come to you in the rain or on a mushroom laden pizza?

Thanks to C&N for supporting conservation!!!

Family Fishing Program Scheduled for May

Would you want to try fishing with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy?

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy (NPC) are hosting an afternoon of FREE fishing at Rose Valley Lake!

No license, equipment or bait is required. We’ll provide all the tackle, bait, and rods. Registering for the event (every participant adult, young adult, or child should be registered) is your license for the event.

After a quick overview of what fish eat, how to tie a basic knot, and some casting practice, we’ll get everyone tackle and bait and let you fish the afternoon away. Volunteers will be on hand to help and make sure there’s a photo of you with the trophy fish you catch.

The May 15, 2022 program begins at 12:30pm. You can fish as long as you want, but we will wrap up by 4:00pm. Please pre-register for the event .

You can register online at the PA Fish and Boat Commission’s website.

Please be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, water, and snacks. The event will be held rain or shine, so bring an rain jacket or maybe an extra sweatshirt (May can be chilly at times).

The Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy is enrolled in PFBC’s Fishing Tackle Loaner Program. What is the Fishing Tackle Loaner Program?? Through the FTLP, the public can go to the locations identified and borrow rods, reels and a tackle box full of hooks and other terminal tackle. This equipment is borrowed in much the same way books are borrowed from a library. Those wanting to borrow gear complete a form and the loan is made. At the end of the loan period the equipment is returned to the site. The FTLP program is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the American Sportfishing Association, and multiple other sponsors. The program is designed to make it easy for anyone to access fishing tackle. This equipment may also be loaned to groups conducting angler education programs in the community.

Thank you to C&N for their support of conservation!

Underfoot: Vines in General

By Susan Sprout

On the Movements and Habits of Plants” is a book written by Charles Darwin and published in 1875. It was based on an essay he wrote ten years earlier. His passion for the design of plants and the diversity of their powers of movement are amazing to me – the little girl who was taught that animals were different from plants because plants couldn’t move! Ha! Their adaptations as climbing vines has carried some plants to new heights. Their “leafage” in forests can account for 40% of a forest’s leaf mass. Biomass – not so much – just 5%. What this tells us is that the thin vines sprint skyward for light and create huge numbers of leaves to absorb it. Climbing vines aren’t all in the same family, either. This key innovation evolved independently in different families, with different climbing methods. Their success may be based on the fact they don’t have to use their energy to grow big, heavy trunks. They use the backbones of trees, buildings, fences, cliff faces, other plants. Check out trees (or other items) with vines  growing up them on your next walk. See if you can determine their special modus operandi for getting to the top.

Here are some of the ways they may use, with reference to the plants I wrote about in earlier blogs.

Aerial rootlets with adhesive discs that glue the growing plant to its support – Virginia Creeper.

This Virginia Creeper vine has adhesive disks holding it to the spruce trunk.

Twining and wrapping their stems around a support – Bittersweet – It only twines counterclockwise.

Follow the indents created by a Bittersweet vine as it curled counterclockwise up the tree trunk.

Scrambling or shooting out long stems that arch out and loop over the backs of others – Tear Thumb. This plant also has thorns that help it hold on.

Tendrils or specialized shoots that coil and/or branch – Prickly Cucumber

Check out the curly spring-like tendrils of Bur Cucumber, a close relative of Prickly Cucumber.

Trailing over the ground to cover as much territory as they can – Ground Ivy

A new vine came to live at my home this winter, brought from a much warmer clime. It is Piper nigrum, the Black Pepper Vine, the species of plant that provides us with over a million tons of pepper yearly. After growing up to 13 feet for about four or five years, a pepper vine will produce flowers on hanging spikes that turn into small pungent fruits, maturing from green to red to black. Picked while unripe, the berries are boiled and dried before being sent on their way from the twenty-five countries that produce them –  the world’s most traded spice!

Did you know the spice you use everyday, Black Pepper, grew on a vine?

Working on Cleaner Water Through Weather Whiplash

The projects with the northcentral stream partnership got underway the week of March 7. The first day was a little chilly to start, but sunny, and comfortable in the afternoon. However, it’s March. We’re in Pennsylvania. Yep. On day 2 of the stream construction season, it was cold and snowing. The team worked on.

Weather whiplash in full swing at this project in Union County. Here’s day 2. Day was was chilly to start, but comfortable by the sunny afternnon.

The weather isn’t done with us. Logs were delivered last week for a project that was scheduled to start today (Monday, March 14), but the weekend snowstorm required a delay. The ground is no longer frozen, so all the moisture from the snow will make things pretty muddy and we don’t like to generate more mud than necessary. We’re working to clean up water remember, and generally mud doesn’t help.

Logs being unloaded for an upcoming project in Montour County.

The team is keeping busy looking at potential project sites, re-visiting sites that were designed last year to see how they changed over the winter, and re-vising sites that had work done in prior years. Looking at streams, comparing them over time, and seeing how they respond is all important for learning and understanding.

Partners re-visiting a Lycoming County site.

The partnership will be back to projects soon!