Two Erie County Wetland Areas Named Wild Plant Sanctuaries

September 30, 2010

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has designated the Lowville Fen Natural Area in Lowville and the Scarlett Wild Flower Sanctuary in Edinboro as Pennsylvania Wild Plant Sanctuaries.

The designations were bestowed upon the two Erie County wetland areas today at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s West Branch French Creek Conservation Area.

“Meant to encourage the conservation of natural areas and native plants, the Wild Plant Sanctuary program recognizes private landowners who serve as models of good conservation and stewardship of these special resources,” DCNR Secretary John Quigley said. “With strategies to conserve rare plants as part of each property’s management plan, these designations are a great model for other landowners.”

Located 15 miles southeast of Erie, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s 260-acre Lowville Fen Natural Area is part of the conservancy’s West Branch French Creek Conservation Area. It contains a unique plant community fed by calcium-rich groundwater that provides habitat to nearly a dozen rare, threatened or endangered plant species. The West Branch French Creek Conservation Area is open to the public.

“Lowville Fen is among the most unique of Pennsylvania’s wetlands. Not only does it feature a number of plants of conservation concern, but also a mosaic of natural communities that together form an important piece of French Creek’s riparian corridor and floodplain,” said Jeff Wagner, Pennsylvania Natural Heritage program director at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. “The benefits of protecting this area extend beyond the fen itself into the watershed of one of the regions most intact freshwater ecosystems.”

The Scarlett Wild Flower Sanctuary borders Edinboro Lake and is home to nearly two dozen rare Pennsylvania plant species. Botanists from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History have documented more than 100 native plant species at the site.

Ted and Sally Scarlett own the sanctuary and have long recognized that their wetlands were a biological gem. When a gravel mine was proposed higher in the watershed, they knew this activity posed a grave threat to the viability of the fragile peatlands. In response, the Scarletts purchased land to create a more effective conservation area. At their own expense, they addressed run-off problems from commercial developments on the other side of the highway and controlled invasive exotic plants that were replacing the rare native species. Thanks to their efforts, the native species are now increasing.

The Scarletts have actively managed this site for the benefit of native species with guidance from Jim Bissell of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. While the sanctuary is not open to the public, it may be visited by appointment.

“Scarlett Wild Flower Sanctuary is by at least one measure the most important wetland in Pennsylvania in terms of plant diversity,” said Steve Grund, a botanist with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. “The fen hosts 23 rare plant species, the most known for any single wetland. Included in these species is northern arrowhead (Sagittaria cuneata), which is known at no other site in Pennsylvania.”

The Wild Plant Sanctuary Program was established through the Wild Resource Conservation Act of 1982 to establish a voluntary statewide network of native plant sanctuaries. Landowners agree to protect the area and educate others about the importance of native and wild plants and habitats. In return, they receive assistance with a management plan if needed, and have access to technical assistance and ecological checkups.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy enhances the region’s quality of life by protecting and restoring exceptional places. A nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, the conservancy helped to establish 10 state parks and has conserved more than 228,000 acres of natural lands and waterways.

For more information about the Wild Plant Sanctuary Program, contact DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry at 717-787-3444, or email RA-PAPlandSanctuary@state.pa.us.

Details also are available at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/wildplant.

Media contact: Christina Novak, 717-772-9101

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Source: newswire

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