The Lehigh Gap Nature Center promotes conservation in its research and activities, in order to conserve and restore habitats in the refuge.
The Greening of the Mountain
As a result of decades of air pollution resulting from 20th century industrial zinc smelting in Palmerton through the 1970’s, much of the mountain at the Lehigh Gap Refuge and in surrounding areas was deforested, eroded, and left with high levels of zinc and other heavy metals. Along with our partner, Viacom, much of this land is being restored using various species of native, zinc-tolerant, warm-season (prairie) grasses. Beginning in 2003, test plot areas on the mountain were seeded and fertilized, both from the ground and later by aerial application of seeds with crop dusters. The success of this program has been remarkable, as can be seen from the dramatic transformation of the mountain, evident in the photographs below. As the grasslands thrive and expand, we anticipate a growth in the abundance and diversity of wildlife supported by the renewed habitat.
To learn more about this effort, read the following articles from Wildlife Activist by LGNC Executive Director Dan Kunkle, which describe what has been done to restore vegetation to the mountain at the Lehigh Gap.
- Summer 2006 – Refuge Grass Planting Nearing Completion – by Dan R. Kunkle (.pdf file)
- Fall 2004 – Lehigh Gap Restoration Project: Year 2 Progress Report – by Dan R. Kunkle
- Summer 2004 – Ecological Succession and Lehigh Gap – by Dan R. Kunkle
- Fall 2003 – Watching Grass Grow II – by Dan R. Kunkle
- Summer 2003 – Watching Grass Grow–Update on the Restoration Process at Lehigh Gap – by Dan R. Kunkle
Native Plant Habitat Gardens
In 2006, The Lehigh Gap Nature Center began a program of planting native plants in habitat gardens around the Osprey House, with additional plantings added in each of the last several years. From April to November each year, these gardens reveal a procession of flowering plants, providing nectar and pollen for native bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, as well as providing native vegetation for herbaceous insects that form the basis of the food web. Many members and friends of Lehigh Gap Nature Center have been involved in the design, landscaping, planting, and maintenance of these beautiful gardens.