Clear Creek State Forest: Stepping Into a Climate Solution, One Ancient Tree at a Time

ForestPhoto by mali maeder on Pexels.com

SANDY LAKE, PA — The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Deputy Secretary John Norbeck announced the induction of the McKeever Tract in Clear Creek State Forest into the Old-Growth Forest Network. The DCNR is ecstatic about this distinction, which confirms Pennsylvania’s commitment to preserve the history and ecological heritage of our state, according to Norbeck.

The McKeever Tract boasts a 20-acre stand of Eastern hemlocks and other hardwoods, such as red and white oak on its southeastern end. These veteran trees, thought to be over 150 years of age, make the forest uniquely beneficial to species that thrive in old-growth ecosystems – an ecological asset seldom found elsewhere in Mercer County.

The old-growth forest’s ability to retain more carbon and nitrogen than its younger counterparts translates into superior water and air quality control. This makes these ancient forests veritable climate superheroes.

The noted loss of many old-growth hemlocks, primarily due to the invasive hemlock wooly adelgid, has caused more light to reach the forest floor in recent years, potentially altering this delicate ecosystem.

An exciting new trail, starting at the McKeever-Goddard trail and culminating within the old-growth forest, now presents everyone an up-close encounter with these natural marvels.

In recognition of the importance of direct access to these natural wonders, Governor Josh Shapiro’s proposed budget has dedicated $8.5 million for trail development in state parks and forests.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps also joined the induction ceremony. The Meadville crew showcased their work on the McKeever-Goddard Trail, which links Clear Creek State Forest to Maurice K. Goddard State Park, highlighting the unity of efforts in outdoor conservation.

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To ensure a continuance of such conservation efforts, the governor’s budget includes a $5 million investment to diversify and strengthen conservation-related career pathways for young people via the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps initiative.

The Old-Growth Forest Network, imbued with a mission to connect the public with nature, is working tirelessly to establish a nationwide network of protected, mature, publicly accessible native forests. Their ambitious vision is to preserve at least one forest in every county in the U.S. capable of sustaining a forest.

Since its foundation in 2012 by Dr. Joan Maloof, the network has inducted over 185 forests, spread across 32 states. The addition of a portion of Clear Creek State Forest into the Old-Growth Forest Network brings the Pennsylvania tally to 30.

The organization also pays tribute to exceptional forest advocates, spreads awareness about the unparalleled ecological benefits of old-growth forests, and promptly alerts on any immediate threats to specific ancient forests.

The Clear Creek State Forest, extending across 16,716 acres in Jefferson, Clarion, Venango, Forest, and Mercer counties, is one of the eight state forests ensconced within the Pennsylvania Wilds. This latest recognition of the McKeever Tract located within Clear Creek State Forest is a testament to Pennsylvania’s commitment to protect these valuable natural resources.

Indeed, Pennsylvania leads the nation in the quantity of old-growth forests committed to the network, confirms Brian Kane, the outreach coordinator and mid-Atlantic regional manager with the Old-Growth Forest Network.

In this age of climate crisis, conservation efforts like these are not just a step in the right direction but a stride towards the preservation of our planet. The ongoing dedication to protect our natural spaces exemplifies an urgent and commendable response to our global climatic predicament. So, when you next wander through the ancient trails of the McKeever Tract, remember, you are not just in an old forest, but at the vanguard of a climate change solution, one grand tree at a time.

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