BROCKWAY — Penn State DuBois students Dan Jenkins and Steven Abrahamson planted a 2-year-old Douglas Fir tree seedling in the ground Monday.
“Perfect,” Abrahamson said, as the seedling was set into the soil along a tributary of Rattlesnake Run in Washington Township, Jefferson County.
The pair was glad to be outdoors for a hands-on learning experience that also helped the environment.
“I think it’s great,” Jenkins said.
They were among a group of 27 Penn State DuBois wildlife technology students who were at the Smith Farm, outside Brockway, for a riparian forested buffer tree planting event.
Wearing bright orange gloves, student Darby Richard knelt beside a bucket of the seedlings, their tops poking out. She gently worked the soil as she planted one of the tiny trees.
“It’s better than sitting at a desk all day,” she commented. “I love getting hands-on experience.”
In total, the students planted about 300 trees at the site, located along Stevenson Hill Road, according to John Brundege, forester with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry, Clear Creek State Forest.
“The goal is to improve the water quality in the stream, to eventually shade the stream, to help keep it colder water, to be a better cold water fishery,” he noted.
The tributary, he said, feeds the cold water fishery of Rattlesnake Run.
Brundege provided a fact sheet that notes that streamside forests also are important habitat areas for birds like wood ducks while tree roots stabilize stream banks and reduce erosion.
He said the trees can help filter out runoff and acid mine drainage.
“Actually, where we’re planting, this is all old strip mine ground here,” he said.
“Trees are a wonderful filter. They take things out of the ground and expel the water through their leaves, or needles, in this case.”
Brundege told the students that the grown trees already in place around the stream, such as ash and hemlock, were in danger of disappearing because of infestations affecting them.
He noted that the 80-acre parcel where the planting took place was donated in 2002 to the American Chestnut Foundation.
The discussion with the students was to focus on land use history, challenges associated with historical disturbances, benefits of riparian buffers, site prep, planting and maintenance.
The project was done in cooperation with the American Chestnut Foundation, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Jefferson County Conservation District, Penn State and Pennsylvania Game Commission, according to information provided by Brundege.