French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust has preserved forever 15 acres in Charlestown Township, northern Chester County, through a conservation easement on property owned by Nancy Long and her brother Tom Baldwin. The property is located within the Pickering Creek Watershed. The Pickering Creek and its tributaries are designated as having High Quality Water by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The easement was funded by Charlestown Township.
Unique to this property, 10 acres of the oldest trees are dedicated as an “Old Growth Forest for the Future,” with an additional 3 three acres designated as a “Forest Farm”.
According to Ms. Long and Mr. Baldwin, “Incorporating this protection strategy into an easement offers a new model to consider when woodland protection is foremost in a landowner’s mind.”
The 10 acres of old growth forest contain a rich interplay of species due to their unique number of layers, including networks of fungal webs in the soil, low flowering herbaceous plants in the understory and a rich variety of young, old and dead trees in the canopy. These trees will also help with water purification and carbon sequestration long into the future.
The three-acre Forest Farm has slightly younger trees, making it an ideal environment for growing specialty crops including nuts from hickories, walnuts and hazels, fruit from paw-paws, service berries, elderberries, currents, and raspberries and medicinal crops such as ginseng, goldenseal, native ginger and mushrooms. Also encouraged in this part of the easement is the ancient practice of coppicing, which involves the periodic cutting of young trees to ground level encouraging new shoots from the base. Depending on their age, the new shoots may be used to make brooms, baskets, tool handles or fence posts or many other useful and decorative objects. Coppicing has the added benefit of lengthening the life of a tree, as well as providing tender young leaves for insects, which are the primary protein source for many species of wildlife.
Ms. Long and Mr. Baldwin have ensured this woodland will remain intact by marrying the permanent protections offered by a conservation easement with a new way of utilizing its natural attributes.