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Text by Lorah Hopkins.
A natural pool in a rock.
Versed in music, geology, botany, ceramics, archeology, South and Central American cultures and finance, Lee Gee is one interesting lady. She also excels at story telling and white water rafting.
A fern growing from a boulder.
Her 55 acre tract of conserved rocky woodlands at the headwaters of the Pine Creek Watershed in District Township is equally diverse. Vernal pools, stream areas, the drier hillside, huge oaks, beech, maples boulders, open space...rich biodiversity...that's what she likes best.
The tract has trails, a road, a power line, a stream and an old right of way for an abandoned telephone line. Lee and her late husband, Ken, purchased 65 acres about 40 years ago. They sold the 10 acre "panhandle" to a neighbor. The remaining land was placed under Clean and Green which saved money on taxes.
When Pine Creek Valley Watershed Association (PCVWA) approached Lee about preserving her land she readily agreed. "We must preserve headwaters of streams," she said. "Water will be the next big problem worldwide."
Where else might you find high numbers of mosses, 20 species of ferns, broad wildflower varieties including 5 or 6 orchids, 4 violets, spring beauties, blue eyed grass, hepatica, false hellebore, skunk cabbage, joe-pye, marsh marigolds, cardinal flowers and monkey flowers?
Fly drinking from an unnamed tributary of Pine Creek.
In December 2003, PCVWA purchased a conservation easement of the Lee Gee tract. Fifty percent of the cost was supplied by a PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Partnership Grant. The landowner donated the match. The land cannot be subdivided; all activities must meet conservation standards. The Berks Conservancy and PCVWA are joint holders of the easement.
While the land is protected, recent landscape changes have proved to be a challenge for certain wildlife. In places the underbrush recently has disappeared. It was habitat for the oven bird. Lee misses its song, "teacher-teacher-teacher." Grouse have disappeared as well, replaced by wild turkeys that eat the same food. There were fewer butterflies observed; the fritillaries, tiger swallowtails and spicebush swallowtails.
Perhaps the numerous deer ate the understory. Perhaps the trees have grown too high and shady. The land is soon to be timbered. It was last cut 28 years ago. This time the loggers must meet the conservation standards defined by the easement. Eighty percent of the trees taken will be yellow poplar. There will be no clear cutting.
Moss on a rock becomes a miniature forest.
Bird watching, hunting for tadpoles and spring peepers, hiking on the trails, looking at the vast array of seasonal wildflowers and toiling as a steward of the headwaters; all in her own back yard are joyful things to do.
"Yes," Lee reflected, "I'd conserve again."
Monster black snakes patrol the woods. Lee has heard pileated woodpeckers call from the area towards the stream, along the ridge to Pine Creek in the denser woods. She's seen opossums, foxes, groundhogs and raccoons. Mice and other rodents scamper about.
On the largest boulder out cropping Lee has witnessed a black vulture raise her brood. The junior vultures would stand atop the largest rock, beating their wings as they learned to fly.
A seep with skunk cabbage sprouts and a woodpecker tree.