CLEARFIELD – The geological formations known as Bilger’s Rocks is going to be designated as a Wild Plant Sanctuary by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) later this month. A dedication ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. April 27 at the rock park, announced Terry O’Conner, chairman of the Bilger’s Rocks Association at Tuesday’s workshop meeting of the Clearfield County Commissioners.
“It’s going to be quite an honor. It just puts another protective aspect on maintaining that place,” said O’Conner. He said the DCNR wants to protect Bilger’s Rocks’ historically unusual orchid flowers, such as the Lady Slipper, and a rare fern that’s almost 300 million years old. O’Conner said the DCNR also planned to provide the BRA with a list of rare mosses that are featured within the rocks.
Commissioner John A. Sobel commended O’Conner and the BRA members for creating an environment for these endangered plants to thrive. Like Sobel, Commissioner Mark B. McCracken credited the BRA for making the rock park an important segment of the county’s tourism. He said it was truly a “labor of love” for the BRA, and the county appreciated their hard work.
O’Conner said former commissioner and the late Harry Fred Bigler III helped establish the BRA in 1988. At the time, due to economic ups and downs, he said Bigler envisioned the rock park becoming one of the county’s greatest environmental attractions for hunters, fishermen and visitors. O’Conner said, “And, it still is. Something like Bilger’s Rocks never goes away. It’s been there for more than 300 million years.”
For that reason, O’Conner said the BRA intends to continue maintaining Bilger’s Rocks for educational and recreational purposes. He said they are encouraging more curiosity among local school- and community-based groups and hoping to see them discover the millions of stories that lie within the rock formations. O’Conner said there are wide-ranging mysteries hidden within the rock park’s geological, archaeological and historical background.
O’Conner said that on April 27, the BRA is also having a Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful event to cleanup Bilger’s Rocks. The cleanup will be held from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. with free camping offered to volunteers that weekend. For more information, please visit the Bilger’s Rock’s Facebook page and online.
Wild Plant Sanctuaries Program
The greatest threat to Pennsylvania’s rarest species is loss of habitat. Across the state, the best examples of habitat that support wild plants of special concern are being designated as Wild Plant Sanctuaries. The program was established through the Wild Resource Conservation Act of 1982 to create a voluntary statewide network of habitat managed specifically to conserve rare, native wild plants. Important sites within state forests and state parks are incorporated into the forest and park management plans.
However, most of Pennsylvania’s threatened and endangered plants are found on privately-owned land. The DCNR designates private Wild Plant Sanctuaries to commend private landowners for conserving and enhancing native wild plants and plant communities. Landowners agree to protect the area and educate others about the importance of native and wild plants and habitats. In return, they receive assistance with a management plan if needed, and have access to technical assistance and ecological checkups.
Lands with special or unique wild plant resources qualify for the program. To receive a formal designation as a Wild Plant Sanctuary, the property must meet one or more of the following criteria: support plants that are rare, threatened or endangered in Pennsylvania; contain host plants for rare moths, butterflies or insects; including outstanding or unique natural features or plant communities; be maintained and managed using ecologically sound practices; and be located on lands not state or federally owned.