A turtle moves through grass.
Bog Turtle Bog turtles are the smallest in North America. © Mike Knoerr

Stories in Pennsylvania

Acopian Preserve Restoration

A patchwork of farms, streams and forest harbor populations of bog turtle.

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” that contain clumps of grassy tussock sedges and other low-lying vegetation. This combination of natural elements, located at The Nature Conservancy's Acopian Preserve, creates ideal habitat for one of the state’s most important populations of federally endangered bog turtle.

A blue sky seen through leafless branches.
Sycamore Tree A sycamore tree reaches to a blue sky at The Nature Conservancy's Acopian Preserve in Pennsylvania. © The Nature Conservancy/George C. Gress.

Prior to becoming a Nature Conservancy preserve, this patchwork of farmlands, streams and forest garnered interest from scientists when farming practices began to replace traditional grazing that once supressed trees and other vegetation that provided ideal conditions for bog turtles. In response, TNC acquired the property in 1989 and secured a conservation easement on 1.2 acres in 2000.

Over the years, TNC has implemented prescribed burns, cleared trees, returned grazing to the landscape with cattle and goats, and conducted annual surveys and a radio telemetry study that documented bog turtle locations, hibernation, travel patterns and habitat use within the preserve. Turtles residing in the preserve have been tagged with small, computerized chips to help with tracking, monitoring and managing populations throughout their life cycle.

Studies conducted at the Acopian Preserve have revealed the existence of a 58-year old bog turtle, as well as several other individuals that are more than 50 years old. These are the oldest bog turtles known to exist in the wild.

The Nature Conservancy’s is also working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore a stream located at the preserve. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Statewide Habitat Improvement and Fisheries Management Grant Program provided funding for this project. 

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.

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