In southeastern Pennsylvania, small, spring-fed streams trickle down South Mountain towards the sandstone valley below. In scattered areas across the valley, the water collects to form soft, muddy “wet meadows” surrounded by clumps of grassy tussock sedges and other low-lying vegetation. The combination of these natural elements creates ideal habitat for bog turtle, a federally threatened species. Some of the best examples of this habitat – and one of the state’s most important populations of bog turtle – can be found at the Acopian Preserve.
The lands and waters comprising the Acopian Preserve had already garnered interest from the scientific community prior to The Nature Conservancy’s acquisition in 1989. For many years, grazing on surrounding farmlands suppressed the growth of trees and invasive vegetation, supporting the shallow, sunny wetlands required by bog turtles. With the advent of more intensive farming practices, traditional grazing eventually disappeared from the landscape, jeopardizing the unique conditions needed for healthy bog turtle habitats.
For more than a decade, the Conservancy has worked to restore critical habitat for these turtles that can fit into the palm of a human hand. Over the years, managed burns, tree cutting, and cattle and goat grazing have been employed to foster the growth of native vegetation. The Conservancy also conducted a radio telemetry study that documented bog turtle locations, hibernation, travel patterns and habitat use within the preserve. Additionally, the study revealed the existence of a 48-year-old bog turtle, the oldest known to exist in the wild. This bog turtle, and others residing in the Acopian Preserve, will be tagged with small, computerized chips to help with tracking, monitoring and managing populations throughout their life cycle.
What You’ll See
Federally threatened bog turtles. Native tussock sedge.
Invasion of trees and non-native vegetation including reed canary grass. Groundwater withdrawal and pollution from the surrounding agricultural landscape. Turtle collection and the predation of eggs.
Implementing prescribed burns. Reintroducing grazing, including a goat grazing program. Monitoring bog turtles throughout their life cycle with injected PIT tags.
Acquisition of 108 acres of bog turtle habitat in 1989. Establishment of a conservation easement on 1.2 acres in 2000. Completion of a radio telemetry study in 2005.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, local government, watershed protection groups and farmers
Things To Do
The Acopian Preserve is not open to the public due to the fragile nature of the habitat. However, interested conservationists may view the preserve during a volunteer workday.