Programs geared toward inspiring next generation of stewards: EELS workshop seeks student applicants
While other kids raced to claim their favorite kayaks, paddles and life jackets before the others, Ramona Kroll walked slowly and deliberately along the edge of the lake at the Central PA Wesleyan Campground near New Columbia during the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association’s HERYN (Helping Engage our River’s Youth with Nature) kayak and fishing day programs.
Then, quickly, she darted down and scooped up a small frog before it could jump into the water.
Through three summers, we have served hundreds of kids at our HERYN program, and each one brings different interests, skills, personality, and, for some, even emotional baggage.
But, for Ramona, the unique perspective she added to this year’s program was her keen fascination for everything reptile and amphibian. From the snakes on the T-shirt she wore to early morning registration to her specialized radar for finding these species at the campground that day, it was a cool experience.
During the Sept. 12, 2023, Floating Classroom aboard the Hiawatha Paddleboat in Williamsport, former board treasurer and secretary Ann Fisher and her husband, Warren, received the inaugural 2022 Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association President's Award from former president Kathy Snavely.
"Despite Ann’s protests, it is my deep privilege - with 500 percent board approval - to award the first President’s Award to Ann and Warren Fisher, for their tireless commitment and dedication to the MSRKA," said Snavely during the presentation.
"When our first Riverkeeper gave us her one-month notice (in late 2019), Ann Fisher and I weren’t remotely prepared. We were, at the time, President and Secretary/Treasurer of a very small board of directors. Ann and I worked through every issue together, and there were some pretty monumental issues," said Snavely. "She was instrumental in the hiring process for John Zaktansky back in 2020, helped shape and mentor a new team of leaders for the association and she and Warren have been invaluable assets in fundraising for the association's work, as well."
Column: Hellbender ruling a needed step toward better protections, but there is still much to be done
Riverkeeper note: The following is a column by Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper John Zaktansky in response to the recent federal court ruling overturning the 2019 US Fish and Wildlife Service decision to deny the eastern hellbender protection under the Endangered Species Act. You can read the general press release here. You can read a local reaction story to the ruling here. Follow all our hellbender coverage and other elements here.
Sometimes, revisiting a little bit of history can provide quite a bit of context.
For example, in 2018, our corner of the state was busy celebrating the Loyalsock Creek as Pennsylvania River of the Year, which included promoting the mysterious, awkward and widely misunderstood eastern hellbender, still a resident in certain deep pools of the Loyalsock at that time.
In 2019, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined the eastern hellbender, nationwide, was not in need of any protections under the Endangered Species Act despite feedback to the contrary by hellbender experts the FWS brought in for advice on the matter. Among them was Dr. Peter Petokas, of Williamsport, who studied hellbenders throughout the Susquehanna River basin, including Loyalsock Creek.
Through a variety of ways, locals give hellbender a national voice and a better shot at needed protections
Riverkeeper note: This story is one of a two-part package localizing the Sept. 5, 2023, decision in federal court for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to have to reconsider its 2019 lack of protection for the hellbender. Check out Riverkeeper John Zaktansky's column here. Read the initial press release here. Look over our full hellbender page here.
Before a nervous, pre-teen Michael Kinney could react to the strange-looking creature at the end of his fishing pole, he was distracted by the reaction of everyone around him.
“They started backing away, calling it a mudpuppy. These older guys with tattoos were yelling, telling me I should destroy it. That it was bad for the fish – bad for the water,” he recalled. “I got it on the ground, and I remember it crawling around and getting back into the water.”
It wasn’t until he was in high school biology that Kinney, of Williamsport, learned the strange salamander was actually called a hellbender, that they don't destroy a stream’s ecosystem and later that they were important stream quality indicators.
Federal judge voids 2019 decision on lack of hellbender protections, species status to be evaluated again
Riverkeeper's note: This is the general press release issued as an alert to today's update. Our association is working on a localized update on this story and will be sharing it out as soon as possible. Check back for more information. If you have any questions, you can contact Riverkeeper John Zaktansky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 570-768-6300.
In response to a lawsuit filed by five conservation groups, including the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, a federal judge found today -- Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2019 denial of Endangered Species Act protection for the eastern hellbender salamander was arbitrary and unlawful.
District Judge Lewis J. Liman set aside the Service’s decision and instructed the agency to make a new decision consistent with law.
“This ruling is a lifesaving victory for hellbenders and their declining freshwater habitats,” said Elise Bennett, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Fish and Wildlife Service can no longer ignore overwhelming scientific evidence that hellbenders are in danger of extinction and face even greater threats ahead. These odd and charming salamanders can survive, but they desperately need the help of the Endangered Species Act.”
More than 50 people learn about the 'secret life inside of fish' during Floating Classroom on Hiawatha
More than 50 people, including families and younger children, participated in the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association's Sept. 5, 2023, Floating Classroom aboard the Hiawatha.
The theme was "Secret Life Inside our Fish" and included a fish dissection by Jeremy Harper and Brandon Forsythe of Penn State University on the lower level with several large trout.
More than 100 Scouts, leaders join in River Ecology Day with trash pickup, aquatic education with Riverkeeper
Ninety-eight registered Scouts and additional young people curious about Scouting attended the Scout River Ecology Day on Aug. 19, 2023, at the Shikellamy State Park near Sunbury.
The program, a collaboration between the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, Susquehanna Council BSA and the Shikellamy State Park, ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and included a morning trash pickup service project followed by a rotation through eight stations about various elements of the aquatic ecosystem and how they interact with each other.
Fifty-five join Floating Classroom on bird calls and ways they can be used to help monitor waterway health
The Aug. 22, 2023, Floating Classroom aboard the Hiawatha Paddleboat near Williamsport drew a wide variety of people for sessions on identifying various types of bird calls and learning how those calls may be used to better monitor stream health.
Dr. Mary Morrison, of Lycoming College, and Bonalyn Mosteller, both representing the Lycoming College Audubon Society, ran the upstairs presentation on common bird calls and how to identify them.
The lower-level discussion was led by Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper John Zaktansky and Assistant Research Professor at Penn State, Brandon Forsythe, on the association's Birdnet project.
Study: Coal waste in foundation of 'legacy' island on Susquehanna River a reminder of our long-term impact
Deep within core samples taken this summer from an unnamed Susquehanna River island near Beach Haven (just north of Berwick in Luzerne County), Dr. Jennifer Elick and two of her Susquehanna University students discovered an unexpected cocktail of components.
In addition to some minerals likely delivered by glaciers, they found anthracite coal, hematite, shale chips, coke, magnetic glass and iron oxyhydroxide – elements found regularly in coal waste.
“The magnetic glass is the kind of thing that forms inside of furnaces associated with burning coal. Iron oxyhydroxide are the little chips that form as a precipitate from acid mine drainage – that material is ripped up during floods and transported downstream,” said Elick. “All of that along with magnetite and metal from industrial waste – it was all mixed into this sand and gave us a new perspective as to the sources of the sediment and composition of the island itself.”
August 8 Floating Classroom on the Hiawatha covers Native American artifacts & region's logging history
Fifty people participated in the Artifacts and Logging History Floating Classroom aboard the Hiawatha Paddleboat near Williamsport on Tuesday, August 8, 2023.
Kim Mattern, an advocational archeologist and curator of the Snyder County Museum, presented on the lower level about Native American artifacts and culture along the Susquehanna River basin.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.