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Making a difference: Trading the football field for forests and fields

A lot of work goes into carrying out ClearWater Conservancy’s mission, from writing grants for new projects to monitoring easements and maintaining buffers installed years ago. On the ground, so much of that work is carried out by our strong corps of volunteers, often in small groups alongside Habitat Stewardship Coordinator Sarah Kania.

This past June, Sarah faced a new coordination challenge: A group of 80 high school football players wanted to volunteer with ClearWater for a day. She arranged for them to work at the Barrens to Bald Eagle Wildlife Corridor, a 104-acre property in Port Matilda conserved by ClearWater in 2010 to create safe passage for wildlife species between Bald Eagle Mountain and the Scotia Barrens. ClearWater owns and manages 39 acres of the corridor and has restored what was once a farm field into a habitat hotspot with hundreds of young trees in shelters.

Hailing from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, the students and around a dozen coaches arrived in two large coach buses to the corridor’s small gravel parking lot and promptly unloaded, a flurry of activity. Sarah set groups to varying tasks, from invasive removal to straightening tree shelters.

The students working with the tree shelters were more than excited to grab a mallet and start hammering wooden stakes. Another group was tasked with loading up the back of a pick-up truck with illegally dumped sod grass, brush, and the remains of old Christmas trees. Sarah led a group in tackling (pun intended) a large patch of Canadian thistle near the parking lot.

Sarah shared one of her favorite moments from the day: “At one point a small group of the students ventured into the field, running through the wildflowers, when they came across a large dead shrub. Motioning to it, they yelled to me, asking if they were allowed to rip it out. Puzzled, I agreed, not believing their ability to unearth this shrub and its root system. But in a matter of seconds, the players were triumphantly holding the dead shrub above their heads, victorious. I could not believe the energy this

group had, which is why it is now not surprising they were able to completely remove all the thistle I had tasked them with.”


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