In contrast to typical barrens usually associated with dry, shallow, nutrient-poor sandy soils, the mesic till barrens found at the Long Pond Preserve thrive in rich loam full of moisture and capable of supporting a unique type of woodland landscape more characteristic of Canada’s northern climate.. That is because, historically, regular and somewhat frequent wildfires sustained this unique habitat and prevented it from succeeding to mature forest.
However, for more than a half-century, suppression of wildfires in this rapidly developing landscape has jeopardized the health of Long Pond’s mesic till barrens. Without this natural disturbance, more than 70 percent of the original habitat has transformed into fire-intolerant forest that does not support the rare species known to reside here.
In response, The Nature Conservancy, together with partners, has employed cutting edge science to assemble a detailed inventory, maps of plant and animal communities, and spatial and demographic data for the area encompassing the Long Pond Preserve. This data is crucial to effectively managing these unique barrens today and in the future.
Monroe County, 20 miles west of Stroudsburg
Development and Fire Suppression
What’s At Stake
The mesic till barrens at Long Pond are comprised of swamps, bogs, marshes and shallow ponds surrounded by woodlands of scrub oak, pitch pine, red spruce, balsam fir, eastern hemlock covered with a heath understory of Rhodora, sheep-laurel, highbush blueberry and huckleberry bushes. This exceptionally diverse habitat attracts many species of boreal plants, insects, birds, and mammals and features rocks with glacial signatures more typical of Canada and New England. Specifically, the landscape hosts rare butterflies and moths, and birds that are declining throughout most of Pennsylvania such as osprey, northern harrier, eastern towhee, prairie warbler, whip-poor-will, common yellowthroat and chestnut-sided warbler. The area also hosts American Bittern and Northern Harrier—bird species not commonly observed in other parts of the region.
Over the years, TNC has worked with partners to acquire property, complete an ecological management plan and establish a prescribed fire program for this unique landscape. This has led to cutting-edge conservation strategies that included the enrollment of 8,588 acres by Bethlehem Water Authority into the Working Woodlands Program, which provides forest landowners with a rigorous analysis of their property and access to forest certification and carbon markets, in exchange for a commitment to practice sustainable forestry.
TNC also entered into an agreement with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to employ prescribed burning to restore more than 2,000 acres in the barrens over the past decade. Today, TNC continues to work with local government and other partners to acquire and manage additional lands, and provide public access to quality outdoor recreation.