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A small brown turtle with orange cheeks and a red speckled face sits in a patch of green moss.
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 North America's smallest turtle.

In southeastern Pennsylvania, small, spring-fed mountain streams trickle down into 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.

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.

View from the ground looking up through the pale, leafless branches of a sycamore tree to the bright blue sky above.
Sycamore Tree (Platanus occidentalis) A sycamore tree reaches its pale, leafless branches towards a blue sky at TNC's Acopian Preserve. © George C. Gress / TNC

Prior to becoming a TNC preserve, this patchwork of lands 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.

Stream Restoration

In 2017 TNC began stream restoration work at Acopian in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service . The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Statewide Habitat Improvement and Fisheries Management Grant Program provided funding for this project that was completed in 2018.

A wide stream cuts through a degraded channel. The stream banks and are and unstable. Short green grass covers the banks.
A wide stream flows between banks covered with tall green grass and blooming wildflowers.
Standing water pools in the many depressions of a wide muddy channel created by a backhoe.
A wide stream gently meanders between green grass banks dotted with blooming yellow wildflowers.
A large muddy construction area where a new stream bed will flow. A yellow earthmover is visible at the left. Logs and a large pile of rocks sit together on the right, waiting for placement.
A wide stream bends and curves into the distance between gently sloping banks covered in tall grass and blooming wildflowers.
A stream curves between tall, bare earth banks. Matting is laid over the banks to prevent erosion. A man wearing a hardhat stands on one bank. A yellow backhoe sits on the bank behind him.
A stream bends and meanders between restored banks. The ground is covered in straw that protects newly planted seeds. In the foreground a shallow depression is filled with brown water.
A section of stream begins to take shape in the middle of a muddy construction area. In the background a man wearing an orange hard hat stand in ankle deep water. A yellow backhoe sits on the bank.
A wide stream gently curves away out of sight between sloping banks covered with tall green grass.