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WPC Daily Extra
the Tamarack Swamp
Tamarack Swamp is continuing to recover from earlier logging. It has suffered
some damage from other activities -- largely natural gas development.
Nonetheless, inherent ecological qualities remain. That's why early in
the 1990s, WPC conveyed 9,425 acres to the Bureau of Forestry to protect
part of Sproul State Forest. This generally protected forests in the area
and not the swamp. In 1998, WPC specifically purchased another 351 acres
identified in the conservation plan for the swamp, and in 2002, we acquired
an additional 134-acre tract to add more protection.
area is named for the unusual presence of tamarack (Larix laricina), the
only native deciduous (annually shedding) conifer tree in Pennsylvania.
Tamarack swamp survived as a Canadian environment after a post-glacial
shift in climate, while other similar areas disappeared. When Pennsylvania's
last glacial period ended, most other boreal habitats retreated northward,
while this unique wetland remained intact and today serves as one of the
few examples of a black spruce, balsam fir and tamarack bog in north central
Pennsylvania. The swamp forms the headwaters of Drury Run, an Exceptional
Value, high-gradient clearwater stream.
have long been studied at Tamarack Swamp, and reference to that is found
as early as 1902, as evidenced in an article by F.R. Cope, Jr. Historically,
Tamarack Swamp contained boreal forest and wetland habitats that supported
nesting avifauna considered "Canadian elements" such as: olive-sided
flycatcher, yellow-bellied flycatcher, olive-backed thrush, red-breasted
nuthatch, winter wren and purple finch. These were confirmed or highly
suspected as breeding by the early biologists a century ago.
Museum of Natural History ornithologist W.E. Clyde Todd also traveled
to this remote part of the Allegheny High Plateaus region as early as
1894 for his first visit to the site. Later he wrote an intriguing description
of the wetland in Birds of Western Pennsylvania (1940): "Tamarack
Swamp, Clinton County, at the head of Drury Run, a wooded bog of sphagnum-tamarack
type, with an outer fringe of spruce and balsam fir, and this surrounded
in its turn by hemlock."
site is considered to be one of the most important for biodiversity in
north central Pennsylvania. It is recognized as a conservation site of
the highest importance as reported in the Clinton County Natural Heritage
Inventory, due to the unique wetland communities and several rare species
of plants and insects. The swamp was selected by National Audubon Society
and the Pennsylvania Biological Survey as one of the first Important Bird
Areas in the state. This selection was made based on the significance
of the boreal swamp habitat, and the continuing recovery potential it
represents now that portions of the swamp are under protection. Although
a repeat of Cope and Reimann's work has not been undertaken to date, the
site continues to be inventoried for specific species in the region, for
example, the yellow-bellied flycatcher (PA Threatened), which is likely
to return to the site in the future.
was able to obtain a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's North
American Wetlands Conservation Act program to assist in the latest protection
effort. Given the size of the swamp and its watershed (approximately 1,300
acres) much of the area still remains unprotected, so there is considerable
conservation work that remains.
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