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.
Development and Fire Suppression
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.