In 1978, when a small group of local amateur naturalists first contacted.

In 1978, when a small group of local amateur naturalists first contacted.

The Nature Conservancy about a small wetlands area in northeastern Pennsylvania, regional directors of the international environmental organization were immediately interested.

The Nature Conservancy purchases valuable wilderness areas in order to protect them, and their decision to acquire the land that was to become the Florence Shelly Wetlands Preserve was based on several important factors: the diverse wetlands areas, which contribute to the ecological health of a bioregion; the diversity of plant and species; and the presence of a small stand of balsam firs growing wild there.

The balsam fir normally thrives in northern woodlands, and it is believed that these trees make up one of the southernmost stands in the U.S.

Although these rare balsams are located in a remote and inaccessible part of the preserve, the Florence Shelly Wetlands Preserve features many other species of trees that tell a unique tale about this particular area and its human and natural history.

On Sunday, September 21, at 2 PM, Hank Hartman, a retired forester, will lead a walk to identify some of these trees, demonstrate how to identify them, discuss their particular, qualities and describe the environmental challenges that threaten them.

Indigenous trees at the preserve include maple, ash, a few species of oak, shadbush (named because they flower around the time the shad are running in the rivers), and black cherry. There is even a rare American elm.

Walk participants will notice a line of sugar maples along the main trail, maintained for convenience in sugar tapping by the farm family who lived on the land almost a hundred years ago.

Apple trees and a lilac half hidden in goldenrod and hardhack give further evidence of human habitation in what is now a wildlife refuge. Dense, dark patches of scotch and Austrian pines are remnants of the pine plantations planted by the Conservation Corps during the 1940s and never thinned. Hartman will give tips for identifying trees by their bark, leaves, cones and other characteristics. He will point out damage caused by insect species from remote lands and explain why trees—and the humans who are concerned about them—have such difficulty combatting these pests. The walk will last approximately two hours.

The Florence Shelly Wetlands Preserve is located one mile north of Thompson, PA on Route 171. The walk is free and there is no need to make reservations. Meet in the parking lot just opposite Stack Road. The hike is flat, but the trail is rough and uneven in places and will be damp if we have had recent rains, so wear shoes appropriate for walking in wetlands.

For further information call Andrew Gardner, 570-727-3362.