Fall 2009

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Celebrating Pennsylvania's First Private Wild Plant Sanctuary

Private Wild Plant Sanctuary logo

Barbara and Mike Yavorosky's 7.6-acre property, along Panther Creek on the border of Lackawanna and Wayne counties, is special, but not just to them. Earlier this year, the property became Pennsylvania's first officially designated Private Wild Plant Sanctuary and that makes it special to everyone.

The designation was announced on June 17 by John Quigley, Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and a dedication ceremony was held at the site on June 19. It was the culmination of three years of work and interest in having the site designated says Mike Yavorosky, which began when he became aware of Pennsylvania's Private Wild Plant Sanctuary Program and applied to DCNR.

Photo by Barbara Grace
Panther Creek upstream view
View upstream from the lower part of Panther Creek. The valley, its waterfalls, woods and wildflowers are accessible to the public from the O&W Rail-Trail, about 1 mile north of Simpson.

The foundation for the program was laid in 1983, when the Wild Resource Conservation Act was passed. This established not only the Wild Resource Conservation Program, but also provided the authority for the conservation of Pennsylvania's native wild plants.

To implement the law, DCNR adopted regulations that established a plant classification system; created permit and license procedures; established restrictions regarding threatened, endangered and vulnerable plants; and provided for the designation of sites as wild plant sanctuaries.

In 1995, DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry published "a blueprint for the management of our forest resources" called "Penn's Woods: Sustaining Our Forests." In the document, the agency committed to, among other things, establishing a system of publicly and privately owned wild plant sanctuaries. Since then, more than 50 public wild plant sanctuaries have been established in State Forests.

To establish the Private Wild Plant Sanctuary Program, DCNR's Office of Conservation Science, under the leadership of Pat Pingel, organized a team of botanists to develop criteria for the sanctuaries. The Yavoroskys heard about the program and were the first to apply and have their land designated as a sanctuary.

Photo by Greg Czarnecki
Pink lady's slipper plant in woods near creek
A pink lady's-slipper blooms in the Panther Creek Valley.

The valley and stream on the Yavorosky property have been traditionally open to the public to enjoy, says Mike, and he plans to keep it that way. "The people of the community use it, for picking berries and swimming and all that," he explains. People also hike in to the series of waterfalls, one of which, says Mike, is "at least 80 feet high." The stream's headwaters are on Moosic Mountain and the elevation changes quickly and dramatically.

But it's not waterfalls that have led to this property, which extends 50 feet from either side of the stream for more than a mile up mountain, receiving the sanctuary designation; it's the unique and undisturbed plant community. The scenic stream gorge and surroundings contain a rhododendronhemlock plant community and heath-birch barrens. The property has rocky outcrops with seeps and small, scattered wetlands. Some of the notable plant species include trilliums and lady's-slippers. There are no invasive species, which makes this an intact native plant ecosystem.

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Pennsylvania Wild Resource Program