35 Sites on State Forest Lands Designated as Wild Plant Sanctuaries

Wild Plant SanctuariesImage via PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

HARRISBURG, PA — Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn recently announced that the department is designating 35 areas of state forest land across the state as Wild Plant Sanctuaries.

“Whether tucked into forest hollows with rich soils, growing in mucky peatlands, or rooted in dry, rocky barrens, some of the state’s rarest plant populations are now protected in Wild Plant Sanctuaries established in state forests across Pennsylvania,” Dunn said. “Designation of sanctuaries assists DCNR in carrying out its mission to conserve native wild plants and ensures the protection of some of the most botanically diverse sites in the commonwealth.”

The sanctuaries are located in 12 of the state’s 20 state forest districts. Specific locations are not being shared to prevent illegal poaching. Some sanctuaries also represent habitats with high plant species diversity or sites with large populations of host plants for rare pollinators and terrestrial invertebrates.

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The newly designated sanctuaries range in size from five to 700 acres and cover a variety of habitats, including islands, glacial wetlands, and a wide range of unique, forested habitats.

Wild Plant Sanctuary sites offer opportunities for annual monitoring of plant populations and scientific research to better understand the conservation needs of state-listed species and their role in plant communities.  Active management projects undertaken include mowing or cutting that provides more light to the forest floor, fencing to minimize over-browsing by deer, using prescribed fire to promote more open growing conditions, or efforts that seek to control or eradiate invasive plant species.

Set forth by Section 10 of the Wild Resource Conservation Act, the Wild Plant Sanctuary designation allows for the protection, management, and scientific monitoring of plant species populations in the commonwealth that are designated as Rare, Threatened, or Endangered.

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Once identified, sanctuary sites are surveyed to determine their size, boundaries, and to assess threats to the species of interest. Management plans are then developed to outline management and monitoring needs to conserve the species.

When appropriate, collaboration between Bureau of Forestry staff, botanical experts, and local stakeholders helps to further refine management guidance and assess ecological health of the sanctuaries over time.

The knowledge gained by monitoring these sites and studying the results of active management projects can also be used in the future to provide guidance to landowners to protect state-listed plant populations on privately-owned lands.

In addition to these new locations on state forest land, there are 19 Wild Plant Sanctuaries designated on private lands.

Landowners agree to protect the area and educate others about the importance of native and wild plants and habitats. In return, they receive any needed assistance with developing a management plan and have access to technical assistance and ecological checkups.

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There are approximately 2,100 native plants in Pennsylvania.

Find more information about Wild Plant Sanctuaries on the DCNR website.

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