The Heinz Endowments Names Grant Oliphant President

Grant Oliphant was today named the new President of The Heinz Endowments, one of the nation’s leading family foundations. He returns to the Endowments – an organization he previously served for over 10 years in a number of senior management roles – following six years in his current role as President and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

In announcing Mr. Oliphant’s appointment, Teresa Heinz, Board Chairman of the Endowments, acknowledged his past experience and service to the Endowments and his extraordinary success in leading The Pittsburgh Foundation, one of the major community foundations in the U.S., through a transformative period of growth and community impact.

“I have known Grant for many, many years and watched him grow into an exemplary professional and an exceptional leader, visionary and innovator,” said Teresa Heinz. “Above all he is a caring and compassionate human being who offered us three characteristics that made him the perfect choice for this role. He has a deep understanding of Pittsburgh, an informed and strategic view of philanthropy, and a close personal alignment with our family’s philanthropic and community values. I am delighted that he is returning to lead our vital mission at the Endowments.”

Mr. Oliphant, who served as press secretary to the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz, was asked by Teresa Heinz to assist with the family’s philanthropic work after she assumed the board chairmanships of the family’s foundations following Sen. Heinz’s untimely death in 1991. “It is fair to say that almost everything I believe about the work of social change and how philanthropy can help a community move forward, I learned in some way or another through my association with the Heinz family. The Heinz Endowments is a true philanthropic leader, locally for the Pittsburgh region, nationally and beyond, with a distinctive and successful track record for addressing big and critical community issues. I have learned from the best, and now to be asked to lead the best is a deeply gratifying honor,” said Mr. Oliphant.

“I am also immensely grateful to The Pittsburgh Foundation, where I have been privileged to work with a remarkable Board and staff who over the past six years have proved that community philanthropy can be a powerful force for change. I look forward to our continued partnership as these two great philanthropic institutions carry forward their shared goal of making Pittsburgh a model of community transformation.”

Mr. Oliphant will move to his new position at the Pittsburgh-based Endowments by June 2014. A national search was conducted by The Heinz Endowments following the retirement of former Endowments President, Bobby Vagt earlier this year. The search was led by Endowments Board member James Rohr, Executive Chairman and former Chief Executive Officer of PNC Financial Services Group.

Accomplishments at The Pittsburgh Foundation during Mr. Oliphant’s leadership include the launch of the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program for the students of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the development of PittsburghGives, an on-line giving and research portal that has raised more than $30 million over the past five years for local nonprofits with annual Day of Giving events. Both of these programs have become national models for similar initiatives by other community foundations across the U.S.

In 2013, The Pittsburgh Foundation exceeded $1 billion in total assets for the first time in its 69-year history, representing asset growth of 33 percent since the end of 2007. Also, last year the Foundation raised almost $60 million, the third highest in its history and continuing a trend that has seen the organization strengthen its annual fundraising, including successive records set over the previous three years. During his tenure at foundation, the number of donor funds has doubled to over 1,900 individual funds.

Prior to leaving The Heinz Endowments in 2008, Mr. Oliphant held the position of Vice President for Programs and Planning, responsible for managing the Endowments’ $70-plus million annual grantmaking portfolio and undertaking a leadership role in guiding special task forces promoting civic design, school reform and stronger links between environmental stewardship and economic development. 

Mr. Oliphant has taken a prominent role in building advocacy programs to support the work of local nonprofits and the families and individuals they serve. He serves extensively on the boards of local nonprofit and national sector organizations, including the Center for Effective Philanthropy and the Council on Foundations. He is also Chair of the Board of Riverlife, which works to transform Pittsburgh’s riverfronts, and serves on the boards of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Promise, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and the Pittsburgh Advisory Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Born in Adelaide, Australia, Mr. Oliphant, 53, relocated with his parents to the U.S. at the age of four, and grew up in Denver, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. He received a Master’s of Science Degree in Organizational Development from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts from Swarthmore College. He lectures frequently on leadership, organizational dynamics and philanthropy’s role in community change.

Hawk Mountain hires Erin Brown as first full-time director of education in nearly two decades

???????????????????????????????Hawk Mountain Sanctuary welcomes Erin Brown as its first full-time Director of Education in nearly two decades. Brown will lead the organization’s strategic work to build education programming to a leadership level, including to provide the highest quality public and school programs and resources, and to encourage educators from all areas and backgrounds to use raptors and raptor migration as a focus for learning.

Hawk Mountain President Jerry Regan is excited to have her join the team. “This new position expands our education staff, and with our capital vision and newly-opened Irma Broun-Kahn Education building, now we can expand our educational outreach and connect even more people of all ages to the mountain and the migration,” he says.

Board member Scott Weidensaul led the national search, which began late autumn and attracted more than 100 qualified candidates stretching from Florida to Utah to New York. “It was an exhaustive review that involved multiple interviews from a large pool of finalists, but in the end, we found a superb new director of education,” says Weidensaul.

Only by luck would the final contender reside in Berks County, Pennsylvania, be a former 20-year resident of Schuylkill County, and also be a long-time member of the Sanctuary. Local ties aside, Brown brings to the Mountain experience in both the public school system where she worked as a Life Science Teacher at the Parkland Area School District, as well as the state park system, where she held positions as an environmental educator and volunteer coordinator. Her broad-based experience includes leading teacher workshops, developing science-based curriculum, directing eco camps, and work within the school system to develop new science curriculums and create STEMM-related activities.

A major goal of the new position is to fully integrate science and education into the Hawk Mountain experience, and to boost education materials, activities and curricula that combine real science with teacher needs. Fittingly, Erin brings a variety of outdoor teaching certifications that include the Project WILD, Project WET and WOW!, the Project WILD Aquatic, the Pa Songbirds, and the WWF Pa Biodiversity curriculums, as well as ten years of hands-on experience in handling and caring for live raptors and using them as tools for learning.

A long-time education volunteer and member of the Carbon County Environmental Center, Brown is also a senior Girl Scout leader in Douglassville, and has received awards for professional excellence from the Carbon County Conservation District, the Schuylkill County Visitor’s Bureau, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Kutztown University College of Education. She currently resides with her husband Eric and her three children in Birdsboro where the entire Brown family enjoys an active, outdoor lifestyle.

New PALTA Staff Member

The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association is pleased to welcome new staff member Gayle Diehl to our team. Gayle is joining us as our Office Administrator and is looking forward to learning more about land trusts and conservation. As an avid hiker and biker, Gayle is eager to have a role in the processes involved in land preservation.

Gayle has previous experience in office administration and technical writing. She recently earned her Paralegal Studies degree at HACC and enjoyed being a returning student. Her background in administrative work coupled with her recent exposure to real estate law will be a great addition to our staff.

Gayle will be handling our administrative tasks as well as providing support in the implementation of technical assistance and educational materials. She will be assisting with our annual Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference May 1st through May 3rd in Reading and is looking forward to the opportunity to introduce herself to many of the association members at that event.

Brandywine Conservancy Plants 25,000th Tree

The Brandywine Conservancy’s Reforestation Campaign will achieve its five-year goal ahead of schedule when it plants its 25,000th tree in East Brandywine Township on April 19, 2014.

The Brandywine Conservancy will plant 600 native trees along the East Branch of the Brandywine at a property owned by East Brandywine Township. Native hardwood tree species to be planted will include redbud, serviceberry, red-twig dogwood, sweetbay magnolia, sycamore, red maple, silver maple, and swamp white oak, selected specially for this important site.

The Conservancy’s extensive campaign is made possible through collaboration with many community partners including the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Stroud Water Research Center, Guardians of the Brandywine, East Brandywine Township, Victory Brewing, DuPont, ArcelorMittal, Environmental Resources Management, Inc., PECO, Exelon, school groups, scout groups, and many community volunteers. “The Brandywine Conservancy’s focus on preserving our land and water fits naturally with our ambitious reforestation campaign. We are proud to collaborate with our community partners, working together to improve water quality from the source to the faucet in the Brandywine Watershed in Pennsylvania and Delaware,” said Brandywine Conservancy Director, Sherri Evans-Stanton.  

Historical Significance of Forests in the Brandywine Watershed

Forests historically covered well over 90 percent of the landscape within the watershed. This forest cover protected the soil, keeping stormwater from washing it away. Old growth trees and subsequent biological diversity gave the watershed balance and virtually pristine water quality. As the Brandywine Watershed developed, development removed forests, resulting in forested land now comprising only about 28% of the current watershed. As a result, 40% of the Brandywine Creek’s stream miles show substantial deterioration today. 

Conservancy Sets Ambitious New Goal: 50 by 50 Reforestation Campaign

An additional 6,000 trees will be planted at multiple sites in the spring and fall of 2014 with the support of volunteers and funds from various grant sources. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society continues to be a primary source of funding in the campaign. “The PHS-Plant One Million campaign, a three state, 13 county initiative to reforest urban and community forests, supports Brandywine Conservancy in their tree planting effort through our TreeVitalize Watersheds grant program and are excited to celebrate their 25,000th tree planted,” said Emma Melvin, Plant One Million Regional Project Manager.  

Building on the Reforestation Campaign’s success, the Conservancy has announced an expanded goal “50 by 50,” to plant 50,000 trees by the Conservancy’s 50th anniversary in 2017. The 50 by 50 Campaign allows the Conservancy to further the impact of our targeted water quality improvement. Additionally, the Conservancy continues to hope to inspire additional projects through the visibility and educational opportunity that each reforestation site provides. 

A Conservation Hero Passes

The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association is saddened by the death of Dennis G. Collins, a leader in conservation here in Pennsylvania and beyond.  Dennis received the Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award from PALTA in 2005 for his decades of leadership and dedication in conserving our special places and landscapes.

Dennis had many passions and interests in life, but the one dearest to his heart was land protection. His involvement in this field, as an avocation or a vocation, had spanned more than three decades. In that time, he has crafted deals for the protection of many thousands of acres of precious open space. Whether partnering with or mentoring various organizations and individuals, or helping found organizations, or navigating government bureaucracy, or helping landowners to find the most advantageous arrangement, Dennis has been a proactive, creative agent for the protection of special places.

 

Full obituary follows:

Dennis Gawtry Collins, 79, of Norfolk, CT, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend, died unexpectedly on March 15, 2014. Born April 3, 1934 in New York City to Hugh Gawtry Collins and Frances Fisher Collins, Dennis was raised in Millbrook, NY. He attended Millbrook School (’52) and Cornell University (’59), with an interval serving as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. At age 15, he met and fell in love with Pamela Reynolds Bedell, and they were married on February 24, 1956. Dennis and Pam settled in Norfolk, where they raised their family, and he pursued a career in the insurance industry. A passionate outdoorsman and conservationist, Dennis made a successful mid-career transition to professional land management, serving as Executive Director of the Berks County Conservancy and then as Director of Land Preservation for the Wildlands Conservancy in Pennsylvania. After retiring in 2003 and returning to Norfolk, he continued to serve on advisory boards for local land trusts and conservation organizations, and received many awards and recognitions for his decades of leadership in promoting a regional approach to land protection. Among his diverse interests, Dennis enjoyed exploring, hiking, birding, racecars, travel, folk music, history, puzzles, wordplay, and all things Scottish, but most precious to him was family. A warm and engaging man, his compassionate, kind nature was apparent to everyone who knew him. Many sought his counsel, and he shared his wisdom generously, with honesty and humility. Along with his wife, Pam, Dennis will be sorely missed by his family and their spouses: his children Keith (Lori) Collins of Barkhamsted, CT, Laura (George) Gittleman of Santa Rosa, CA, and Blair (Jenny) Collins of Oakland, CA; his sister Anne Collins, M.D., of Hanover, NH, and his brothers Farnham (Anne) Collins and Anthony (Paula) Collins of Millbrook, NY; his grandchildren Ryan and Melanie Collins and Sophia and Levi Gittleman; and numerous nieces, nephews, and dear friends. Services will be held at Norfolk Church of Christ Congregational, Saturday, March 22, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Norfolk Land Trust, P.O. Box 363, Norfolk, CT, 06058 or the Land Trust Alliance, c/o Megan Taaffe, 1660 L Street, NW, Suite 1100, Washington D.C., 20036. Please visit http://www.vincentfuneralhome.com for online condolences. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hartfordcourant/obituary.aspx?n=dennis-gawtry-collins&pid=170234894&eid=sp_shareobit#sthash.A6203uK9.dpuf

Pennsylvania Environmental Council Names Davitt B. Woodwell President and CEO

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), the leading statewide environmental organization, today named Davitt B. Woodwell to the position of president and chief executive officer, succeeding Paul M. King, who is retiring.

Woodwell also becomes a member of PEC’s board of directors.  The transition is effective July 1.

Woodwell assumes his statewide duties after twelve years as the vice president of its Western Pennsylvania office in Pittsburgh. He began his career as a staff attorney at PEC in 1993 and served in several positions during his tenure at PEC.  He took a leave of absence from PEC during 2000 and 2001 to serve as the first executive director of the Riverlife Task Force which developed a master plan for Pittsburgh’s waterfronts and proposed the creation of the new “Three Rivers Park.”  Prior to joining PEC, he was dean of students at Kildonan School in Amenia, New York.

A graduate of both the University of Pittsburgh and its School of Law, Mr. Woodwell is a member of the DCNR Natural Gas Advisory Committee, the DCNR Ecosystem Management Advisory Committee and the Center for Sustainable Shale Development Standards and Evaluation Committee.  He also serves on the board of directors of Aspinwall Riverfront Park and the Steel City Rowing Club.

He is past chairman of the Citizen Advisory Panel to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Planning Commission and was a member of the boards of directors of the Allegheny Land Trust, the MetEd/Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund, the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Regional Trails Corporation, the Steel Industry Heritage Corporation, and Friends of the Riverfront.

Woodwell also served as a member of the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics Shale Gas Roundtable and the Allegheny County Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee. He also participated in the Department of Environmental Protection’s regulatory negotiation on the special protection waters program. Additionally, he served on the Pittsburgh Ozone Stakeholder Working Group and its subsequent negotiations on regulating air pollution and was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge to serve on the Governor’s Commission on Greenways. He has been an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and is a frequent speaker at environmental forums and conferences.

“Davitt Woodwell is one of the most progressive environmental advocates in Pennsylvania,” said PEC board chairman Tony Bartolomeo. “His track record as a champion of the environment, a convener of diverse positions on a wide range of issues, and problem-solver on some of the most difficult environmental challenges facing Pennsylvania make him the right person to lead our organization.

“The future of PEC is being defined by new technologies, a constantly-changing political and regulatory landscape and unprecedented financial challenges that require a unique brand of leadership. We’re confident that Davitt embodies the qualities and skills that will ensure that PEC remains the leading force in environmental advocacy in Pennsylvania for many years to come.”

Woodwell resides with his wife and two children in Indiana Township, Pennsylvania.

East Bradford Township Lauded for its Open Space Initiatives

Township receives first annual Growing Greener Communities Award,
presented by Natural Lands Trust 

Growing Greener Communities Award LogoNatural Lands Trust—in partnership with the Chester County Association of Township Officials (CCATO)—honored East Bradford Township, Chester County, today with the first annual Growing Greener Communities Award. East Bradford Township Supervisor John Snook accepted the award on behalf of the Township at the CCATO conference, held in Malvern.

The award recognizes a Chester County township that has engaged in a dynamic initiative designed to save land, steward natural resources, and connect people to nature.

“Chester County’s communities have been true leaders in open space preservation, smart growth, and sustainable environmental policy,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “We wanted to recognize the excellent work happening at a township level and celebrate the dedicated officials, staff, and volunteers who make it possible.”

“We are pleased to partner with Natural Lands Trust on this award program, and hope that it serves to encourage and promote continued forward-thinking projects and planning within the County,” said Ernie Holling, president of CCATO.

Municipalities and conservation-minded organizations submitted six nominations on behalf of five townships. The nominations highlighted initiatives undertaken in 2013, though several nominations noted that the past year’s work was part of larger open space planning. The review committee—which consisted of representatives from Natural Lands Trust, CCATO, Chester County Planning Commission, and Brandywine Conservancy—was unanimous in its decision to select East Bradford Township as this year’s award winner.

East Bradford’s Open Space Initiative—which Township residents first approved 30 years ago—is designed to protect natural areas and connect them through a trail network. The Township has funded their conservation work through grants, fundraising efforts, and a dedicated tax for open space. Thanks to these efforts, Township residents enjoy 6,000 acres of permanently protected land, 16 parks, and 26 miles of trails.

To further its conservation initiatives, East Bradford Township has utilized regulatory tools—such as the adoption of Growing Greener: Conservation by Design zoning ordinances, which help to preserve land during the development process. In recent years, the Township resolved to place its land under conservation easement, a legally-binding agreement that ensures the land will be protected forever. The Township also decided to create and follow a stewardship plan for each of its properties in order to maximize community enjoyment of Township parkland.

Said David Ward of the Chester County Planning Commission, “East Bradford Township’s open space initiative is simply masterful. It’s the poster child for thoughtful, proactive conservation and land-use planning.”

In 2013, East Bradford secured County funding for the conservation easement of more than 80 acres of Township land, galvanized a volunteer effort to plant 750 trees, commissioned stewardship plans for three of the Township’s 16 parks, constructed more than two miles of trails, and harvested about 35 deer as part of the Township’s wildlife management plan.
Trail development continues to be a focus for the Township. In June 2013, the Township organized its second annual Trail Blazer Race with the support of three local businesses. The Township will use proceeds from the event to fund trail construction and maintenance.

Natural Lands Trust is the region’s foremost land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 42 nature preserves totaling more than 22,000 acres. Today, millions of residents enjoy the healthy habitats, clean air and water, bountiful recreational opportunities, and scenic beauty provided by the lands the organization has preserved. For more information, visit http://www.natlands.org.

The Passing of Art Davis

Dear Friends and Colleagues;

It is with sadness that I write that Art Davis passed away.  He died peacefully at home on March 9, 2014 surrounded by Neen and other members of the family.

As you know, Art served as Secretary of DER from 1987 through 1994.  Many of us remember the quarterly meetings that Art and his deputies held with the conservation and environmental groups. During these meetings, which were usually in the evening in the capitol,  Art was willing to agree or disagree with what the various organizations discussed, and worked openly on strategies to accomplish the issues where there was agreement.

Among his accomplishments while Secretary was to help DER navigate through bitter fights with legislators and private interests about landfills and recycling. He was strict enforcer of hazardous waste policy and protections for wetlands and waterways, and pressed for clean-up and accountability for the 1990 oil spill on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. One of his proudest accomplishments was establishing Pennsylvania’s mandatory recycling program that is among the most progressive in the nation. He fought for funding for State Parks, remarking there was never enough.  Art worked to ensure surface mining clean-up and reclamation and enforce the posting of bonds by coal companies to ensure reclamation.  On the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990, he made his way to work by canoeing across the Susquehanna River.

Many of us have had the pleasure of paddling with Art and Neen on the Susquehanna.  He and Neen were best known for their numerous wilderness trips down wild rivers in Canada and northern U.S. He and Neen are avid birders, both backyard and at Middle Creek and nearby birding spots. He and Neen enjoyed living along the Conodoguinet Creek and stewarded their forested tract along the creek.

Art was known for his wit and his colorful sayings are in use today by many who know Art. My personal favorite is “We’ll jump off that bridge when we come to it” Another favorite was “This soap’s been around the bathtub before” when someone keeps bringing up the same issue.

Prior to DER, he served as the Goddard Chair at Penn State, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and US Fish and Wildlife Service for protection of the White River in Arkansas. His work at Western Pennsylvania Conservancy focused on the conservation of Pennsylvania’s northern forests.

He also believed that the story of conservation in Pennsylvania has to be shared with the public. He humbly viewed his role in history as providing some leadership in his limited time in influencing state policy.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Conodoguinet Creek Watershed Association: mail to Gil Freedman, President, 49 Sample Bridge Road Mechanicsburg PA 17050; or to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy: mail to Thomas D. Saunders, 800 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh PA 15222; or to the environmental or conservation organization of your choice.

Cindy Adams Dunn

President and CEO
Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)

Wild woodland in Hamiltonban preserved

When sisters Susan Yingling and Sally Helm inherited more than 100 acres of woodland in Hamiltonban Township, they knew the property had been in the family for many past generations, and they wanted to preserve its wildness for future generations. “It’s always been mountain land,” Yingling said. “We’ve never built on it or planned to build on it.”

While Yingling and her sister had no plans to develop the land, which borders the Michaux State Forest, they wanted to make sure it would remain wild for future generations, even if it should pass out of their hands. Yingling had heard about the benefits of land preservation and arranging conservation easements to protect land from development—but she thought it applied only to farmland. “I didn’t realize you could also preserve woodland,” she said. But she called the Land Conservancy of Adams County (LCAC) anyway, and learned that woodland is equally valuable for preservation—and once she said she was interested, the LCAC took care of all the details.

In late December the LCAC completed a conservation easement with Yingling and Helm to preserve their family’s land as undeveloped woodland in perpetuity. The easement purchase was made possible by a grant from American Rivers, a national conservation organization that works to protect, restore, and revitalize our rivers. The Yingling/Helm property contains headwaters of Middle Creek, which ultimately drains into the Monocacy and Potomac rivers.

Funds for the American Rivers grant were provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, which provided $1.8 million for the Potomac Highlands Implementation Grant. American Rivers administers the sub grants.

Yingling was surprised at how easy the conservation process was. “I thought there would be many things that I had to do, but actually the Land Conservancy took it all on,” she said. “They did all the groundwork and made things very, very easy.”

Yingling added that she learned some things about her property during the process. The LCAC’s deed research uncovered the exact boundaries of the family land, which had long been forgotten. And Yingling learned that her ancestors had purchased the woodland as early as the 1890s

“It was an amazing process,” Yingling said. “I just said I’d like to conserve this land and put it in their ballpark, and they took care of the rest.”

Edge of the Environmental Movement

March is Women’s History Month, and a great time to feature Hawk Mountain Sanctuary founder Rosalie Edge during the Sanctuary’s 80th anniversary year. Many historic images and quotes available, as are other profiles of strong female conservationists who hail from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pa.

By Mary Linkevich, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Rosalie Edge with raptor on armIn the midst of the Great Depression, a New York socialite in her 50s erupted onto the conservation scene as one of the most important, albeit often overlooked, conservationists of the 20th Century. In 1930 at age 52, Edge established the Emergency Conservation Committee, an information clearinghouse for the public. Her “ECC” was operated almost exclusively by Mrs. Edge, and she distributed thousands of pamphlets that reported outrageous acts of wildlife and habitat destruction, named the guilty, and rallied readers to action. Thanks to talent for grassroots activism, the Emergency Conservation Committee fast became one of the most successful conservation groups ever to operate in the United States.

Although Edge and her ECC made numerous gains for wildlife, including the establishment of Olympic National Park and the expansion of King’s Canyon and Yosemite National Parks, she considered her crowning achievement to be the creation of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. Here, her individual action stopped the shooting of migrating raptors, and at the height of the Great Depression she raised funds to complete the purchase of this special ridge. She established the area as a private, non-profit sanctuary and created a lifelong legacy: she founded the world’s first refuge for birds of prey.

About Hawk Mountain

Long considered vermin, public opinion held that ‘the only good hawk was a dead hawk,’ and nowhere was this more evident than the place known simply as Hawk Mountain, in east central Pennsylvania.

For birds, the conditions here were ideal. On breezy October days, great flights of raptors soared south on their annual migration, taking a time-honored trip to far-away wintering grounds. As they cruised along Hawk Mountain’s ridge, hawks could take advantage of naturally occurring thermals and updrafts that occur here, and soar without flapping for long stretches to save energy on their trip.

For gunners, the rocky overlooks provided an equally perfect vantage point. Not only did large numbers of hawks appear, approach, and pass directly overhead, but many passed at eye level. It made it an easy task to ready, aim and fire.

A young Philadelphia birder named Richard Pough heard of the shooting here, and traveled to investigate. He returned on a windless weekend with his brother Harold and fellow birders, and with no gunners in sight, the three explored the forest below the lookout and found hundreds of rotting and dying hawks. The trio had no choice but to perform mercy killings, then arranged the dead birds by species and photographed the evidence.

Mrs. Edge was outraged when the story and photos came to her attention at a meeting of the Hawk and Owl Society. With no national bird organizations willing to take action, in June 1934 Mrs. Edge visited the mountain and met a local realtor.

“I was impelled to stop the killing,” she would later say of her split-second decision to lease the mountaintop with an option to buy. At $2.50 an acre, she quietly created the world’s first raptor sanctuary, and forever changed the face of bird conservation.

She immediately installed a warden, a New England naturalist named Maurice Broun who arrived that September with his wife Irma. Together, the Brouns turned away gunners, but welcomed those willing to set firearms aside. Maurice counted and carefully recorded each passing migrant, and Irma educated visitors about the newly-formed refuge. In 1938, the lease now paid in full, Mrs. Edge incorporated the non-profit Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, a member-supported organization.

Today Hawk Mountain is still protected, and each autumn thousands of visitors ranging from school children to birdwatchers to the elite of ornithology walk the trail to the famed North Lookout. Others want to see the most recognized hawkwatch in the world.

Tourists come for the incredible views of fall foliage and their dollars support the local economy. Birders arrive following a cold front to catch the best hawk flights. Seasoned hikers explore the spur trails that connect to the Appalachian Trail. All pay a modest trail fee or membership dues, which in turn supports ongoing programs in raptor conservation science, training and education.

It is, in essence, one of the single greatest private conservation success stories of all time. This year Hawk Mountain celebrates its 80th anniversary, and I believe the spirit of Rosalie Edge is as strong today as it was in 1934. I invite you to experience Hawk Mountain, take in the inspirational view, and think of Mrs. Rosalie Barrow Edge, the woman and her Sanctuary that started it all for raptor conservation.

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