Photo by Loy Elliott
The South Mountain Partnership launched the annual South Mountain Speakers Series in 2010. Since then, the Partnership has hosted four to seven lectures a year as part of its Speakers series. We are always on the lookout for potential future topics – nominate an event or topic for inclusion in a future season of the South Mountain Speakers Series here.
THE ROTHROCK LEGACY: A FORUM ON THE PAST AND CURRENT CONDITION OF PENN’S WOODS
Date: March 27, 2014
Location: Penn State Mont Alto Campus – Forestry Auditorium
The Pennsylvania Forestry Association, the PSU-Mont Alto Forestry Club, and the South Mountain Partnership partnered to look at the past, present and future of forestry in the South Mountain region. From the cut over and burned over landscape that Joseph Rothrock knew 140 years ago to the mosaic of fertile agricultural valleys and shady wooded ridges that we see today, the Pennsylvania landscape has been transformed. The panel discussion highlighted the history, diversity, and current management of South Central Pennsylvania’s hardwood forest resource: Joe Barnard (retired, USDA Forest Service) summarized the legacy of Joseph Rothrock and his efforts to protect of thousands of acres of Pennsylvania forest. Matt Keefer (Assistant State Forester for Community and Private Forest Stewardship, DCNR) detailed the current condition of South Central Pennsylvania’s forests and outlined the opportunities and threats to day-to-day management of private and public forests. Nancy Baker (private forest landowner) offered a case history of a 163-acre woodland she owns and manages, land that has been in her family since her great grandfather conducted its first timber harvest in the 1860's.
HALLOWED GROUNDS, ENDANGERED HISTORY: PRESERVING THE HISTORIC AFRICAN-AMERICAN BURIAL GROUNDS OF THE SOUTH MOUNTAIN REGION
Date: April 24, 2014
Location: Shippensburg University, Old Main Chapel
Over the last two hundred and fifty years, African American churches and organizations have established dozens of burial grounds in communities throughout the South Mountain region. These historic cemeteries provide remarkable sites for documenting the rich African American history of the region, including such issues as the history of slavery, emancipation, segregation, and African-American military service in the United States Civil War. Today, many of these historic burial grounds have vanished, or they are threatened by a combination of weathering, neglect, vandalism, and development. Dr. Steven Burg, Professor of History at Shippensburg University, discussed the ways that the historic burial grounds of the South Mountain can be used to discover the region’s rich African-American history. Dr. Burg’s talk also introduced a discussion on the threats posed to these sites, and a variety of efforts that are currently underway to preserve, protect, and share the stories of these hallowed grounds. This Speakers Series event was held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds project, which hosted a cemeteries conservation workshop prior to the evening’s public lecture.
THE CHANGING FACE OF AGRICULTURE IN THE SOUTH MOUNTAIN REGION: RE-CREATING THE CIDER INDUSTRY
Date: October 12, 2014
Location: Arendtsville, National Apple Harvest Festival
The Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail partnered with the South Mountain Partnership to present a discussion on the changing nature of agriculture in the South Mountain region. The discussion drew upon the first-hand experiences of four family farms that have found renewed economic success by turning back to an old use of cider for a new audience: hard cider and sweet cider. Hauser Estate Winery discussed their hard cider production and how it transitioned their farm and business. Reid's Winery highlighted the planting and use of heirloom cider apple for their farm's hard cider production. Big Hill Winery and Cider Works shared insights into the creation of a modern farm business based on the old value added product of hard and sweet apple cider. Finally, Oyler's Organic Farms and Market discussed transitioning from conventional apple growing to organic apple growing for sweet cider production.
LOCAL CLIMATE CHANGE: HOW A CHANGING CLIMATE IS AFFECTING THE SOUTH MOUNTAIN REGION
Date: November 13, 2014
Location: Dickinson College, Stern Center
Climate change is a controversial topic, and explanations for its cause are debated in government, in the media and around the dinner table. Look further and the long and short term ramifications of climate change emerge, and may be investigated at multiple levels, from global to local. The final Speakers Series event of 2014 focused on a discussion about how climate change is affecting South Mountain and Pennsylvania. Shippensburg University earth science professor Tim Hawkins introduced the discussion, drawing upon his own research as well as the research of the broader climatology community to describe historic weather and climate patterns and extremes for the South Mountain region. Dr. Hawkins outlined projections of future shifts in climate, as well as the important local, state, federal and international decisions that we face in light of these changes. A group of panelists followed: Ben Wenk, Three Springs Fruit Farm, provided a first-hand account of changes he is witnessing on the growing seasons on his farm; Dr. Jeff Niemitz, Dickinson College, shared the research his has been doing on the impacts of climate change on local flood events and what that means for the South Mountain landscape; and Dr. Marc McDill, Penn State University, outlined how Pennsylvania’s hardwood forests are responding to changing climatic patterns.
CONSERVING WOODLAND VERNAL POOLS ON SOUTH MOUNTAIN
Date: February 28, 2013
Location: Messiah College
The South Mountain landscape is renowned for its ecologically rich and important vernal pool complexes. Dr. Erik Lindquist and Dr. David Foster, both of Messiah College, highlighted the vital habitat that vernal pools provide for amphibians, insects and crustaceans. Drawing upon their research within the local landscape, Lindquist and Foster discussed the identification of vernal pools and explored themes around the conservation of these critical landscape elements.
SOUTH MOUNTAIN RHYOLITE: GEOLOGY AND ARCHAELOGY
Date: April 10, 2013
Location: Penn State Mont Alto
One of the geological features that makes South Mountain so special is rhyolite, an igneous rock quarried extensively by Native Americans for making tools and weapons. Geologist Bob Smith provided an overview of the geology and distribution of rock formations that contains this stone within the South Mountain landscape. State Museum of Pennsylvania Curator Kurt Carr followed by discussing the cultural importance of rhyolite, and the important role that the stone played in Native American culture.
BEE WELL: NATIVE POLLINATORS AND THE WORKING LANDSCAPES OF SOUTH MOUNTAIN
Date: September 12, 2013
Location: Wilson College
Bees, wasps and other native pollinators provide fascinating and critical services to the diversity of South Mountain ecosystems. Alex Surcica, lead horticulture consultant for the Cumberland Valley Cooperative Association, presented on his research to document native pollinators and to discuss alarming trends in populations of these overlooked by critically important insects. Most of the food we eat depends upon pollinators, but a to-date unexplained “Colony Collapse Disorder” is causing pollinator populations to plummet across the country. A panel discussion to conclude the evening focused on what can be done to maintain and increase populations of these essential insects.
CRIMES AGAINST NATURE: CONSERVATION LAW AND THE HISTORY OF WILDLIFE PROTECTION IN THE SOUTH MOUNTAIN REGION
Date: October 24, 2014
Location: Shippensburg University
From state hunting seasons to international bans on ivory, conservation law plays an important part in wildlife protection here in South Mountain and around the world. The Pennsylvania Game Commission was established in 1895 as one of the Progressive-era reforms spearheaded by conservation leaders such as Joseph Rothrock, Gifford Pinchot and Mira Lloyd Dock. Chad Eyler of the Pennsylvania Game Commission provided an overview of the history of development of conservation law, and how it has evolved into the modern system we witness in the South Mountain region and across the nation. Eyler was joined by Rich Mislitsky (Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation) and Dr. Nathan Thomas (Shippensburg University) for a panel discussion to explore how conservation law is being applied to address current conservation challenges.
PINE GROVE: CONNECTING GEOLOGY AND HUMAN HISTORY
Date: May 20, 2012
Location: Pine Grove Furnace State Park
Dr. Noel Potter (retired, Dickinson College) and Dr. Helen Delano (DCNR-Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey) explored the intersection of geology and human history by revisiting the historic iron industry at Pine Grove Furnace. The South Mountain landscape was ideally situated to support a robust iron industry: the underlying geology provided raw ore, and the surrounding forests offered a seemingly endless supply of fuel for transforming the ore into iron. This geology influenced and shaped human history, as for over 100 years it supported a thriving iron industry. This event was hosted in conjunction with the Cumberland County Historical Society to celebrate the Society’s summer exhibit, “Pine Grove: A Lasting Legacy.”
THE BANK BARNS OF CUMBERLAND VALLEY
Date: July 19, 2012
Location: Norlo Park Community Center
Barns are the reason the agricultural productivity of south-central Pennsylvania grew and flourished. In addition to establishing the region’s economy, these houses of labor were and in many ways still are part of our cultural heritage. Dianna Heim, author of “Cumberland Valley Barns: Past and Present,” and Phil Schaff, local barn photographer and researcher, explored the many facets of the areas barns, including bank barns: those barns built into the side off a hill (or “bank”) such that both upper and lower levels are accessible at ground level. Heim and Schaff also discussed how development has impacted the farms on which these barns stand.
FIERCE FRIENDS: THE SOUTH MOUNTAIN STORY OF SNAKES AND BATS
Date: August 26, 2012
Location: Kings Gap Environmental Education Center
Snakes and bats are a duo of mysterious, elusive creatures that are sometimes misunderstood. Nevertheless, these two species play an important role in the ecology of the South Mountain region. State wildlife biologists Aura Stauffer (DCNR-Bureau of Forestry) and Jim Chestney (PA Fish and Boat Commission) highlighted the natural history and precarious future of these unique animals, and discussed ongoing research and regional study of their habitat requirements.
KEEPING FRUIT HEALTHY
Date: September 8, 2012
Location: PSU Fruit Research & Extension Center
Fruit growers are constantly encountering new invasive species and disease that threaten the health of the numerous orchards that dot the South Mountain area. David Biddinger (PSU Fruit Research and Extension Center) highlighted the brown marmorated stink bug as an invasive species that has recently caused considerable crop losses within the South Mountain Fruit Belt. The emergence of this and other invasive species has coincided with significant declines in native pollinator populations. Biddinger explored how scientists, researchers, and growers are working together to combat these threats to the South Mountain Fruit Belt.
“IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR A NEIGHBOR; WON’T YOU BE MINE?” GO LOCAL FOR HEALTH: THE SOUTH MOUNTAIN HEALTH SUMMIT
Date: September 18, 2012
Location: Gettysburg Hotel
Neighborhoods all across the nation are starting a human quest toward wellness with rails to trails, community gardens, recycling and state parks accessible to most. Given this national campaign, why do people with mental health challenges die decades earlier than the general population? Many point to the observable: smoking, obesity, psychotropic medications and lack of exercise. What we tend to overlook is that when people live below the poverty level, candy bars, chips and fast food are cheaper than fruits, vegetables and fresh fish. And where are the grocery stores in inner city poverty areas anyway? Convenience stores are on every street corner. What we tend to overlook is that Gina Calhoun (The Copeland Center) shared her personal story of mental health recovery after 17 years of back-to-back institutionalization and escaping from Harrisburg State Hospital to live on the streets. Calhoun highlighted that people with mental health challenges often feel “apart from” rather than “a part of” their neighborhood and live in social isolation, and went on to explore the link of mental health to healthy eating, exercise, and access to the outdoors. This Speakers Series event was held in conjunction with the 2012 Go Local for Health Summit.
FROM SPRINGS TO SPRINKLERS: WATER ISSUES IN THE SOUTH MOUNTAIN REGION
Date: November 8, 2012
Location: Shippensburg University
From trout fishing in our spring-fed creeks to the ice cold glass we enjoy on a hot summer’s day, water is at the heart of our quality of life. Over the years, new demands on ground and surface water have created challenges for conserving these important resources. Patrick Bowling (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) provided an overview of the how geology influences aquatic systems, and how human behavior and development is impacting these systems. Bowling was joined by Dr. Christopher Woltemade (Shippensburg University) and Michael Christopher (Washington Township) for a panel discussion to conclude the evening.
PRESERVING HERITAGE IN THE SOUTH MOUNTAIN REGION
Date: February 9, 2011
Location: Cumberland County Historical Society
Held in conjunction with the Cumberland County Historical Society, this event explored innovative partnerships emerging around the preservation of the South Mountain landscape. Kimberly Williams (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) discussed the layers of history held within the forested slopes of South Mountain – history which is a key ingredient in the region’s strong sense of place. Williams highlighted stories of natural wealth, refuge (historically for those fleeing slavery and for those seeking improved health – and today for those seeking recreation and solitude), and the conflict of a contested landscape during the Civil War era.
RESTORING THE AMERICAN CHESTNUT
Date: April 7, 2011
Location: Penn National Community
Dave Armstrong of the PA Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation explored the natural and cultural history of the American Chestnut, once one of the most important – if not the most important – tree species in the eastern forest. Armstrong recounted the catastrophe of the chestnut, and how a fungal infection known as chestnut blight has essentially eliminated mature chestnut trees from our forests. Armstrong additionally introduced and described efforts to restore the tree within forests, with emphasis on working being done in the Michaux State Forest and the South Mountain area.
CONSERVING TREASURED LANDSCAPES IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
Date: May 12, 2012
Location: Adams County Agricultural and Natural Resources Center
The Chesapeake Treasured Landscape Initiative would coordinate and increase funding for conservation of landscapes within the Chesapeake region, identify landscapes of ecological, cultural, and historical significance, expand public access to the Bay and rivers, create a public-private partnership to leverage land conservation funding, and develop landscape level approaches to land conservation, including the potential for expanding and establishing units of the national wildlife refuge system and the national park system. Jonathan Doherty, Assistant Superintendent of the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay office, introduced the Chesapeake Treasured Landscape Initiative and discussed what is being done to protect the treasured working and natural landscapes throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Doherty was joined by Brenda Barrett (DCNR) for a panel discussion to conclude the evening.
THE SOUTH MOUNTAIN HISTORY RAMBLE: NATIONAL GET OUTDOORS DAY
Date: June 11, 2011
Location: Pine Grove Furnace State Park
In celebration of National Get Outdoors Day, this event was structured by a short 1.5 mile walk punctuated by six different stops to hear speakers share stories about our cultural heritage and natural history here in the South Mountain landscape. The speakers interpreted stories of: local Native American history, the Underground Railroad in South Mountain, the South Mountain iron industry, a local history of the natural world, the history and future of the Appalachian Trail at the Appalachian Trail Museum, and the history of Camp Michaux.
HIGHWAY LINES: TRANSPORTATION CHANGE FROM BRADDOCK'S ROAD TO I-81
Date: September 29, 2011
Location: Shippensburg University
When we look closely at the Appalachian Mountains, in addition to the mountains and ridgelines we too see a central valley running from Pennsylvania to Georgia. This Great Valley, known as the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania, has served as a vital transportation link for many centuries and has shaped the region’s history in a wide variety of ways. The relatively flat route funneled settlement to the south and west and attracted the attention of Confederate generals during the Civil War. Today, the I-81 corridor is one of the nation’s most important north-south routes and plays an import economic role for local communities. Dr. Paul Marr (Shippensburg University) explained the history of transportation in the South Mountain region, and discussed how the area’s geography influenced settlement and development patterns. Dr. Marr was joined by Steven Deck, a senior planner for a south-central Pennsylvania regional transit coordination study, and Kirk Stoner, planning director for Cumberland County, for a panel discussion on contemporary land use issues.
CLOSING THE FOOD GAP: CONNECTING COMMUNITY AND LOCAL FOOD
Date: November 10, 2011
Location: Wilson College
Nationally known author Mark Winne, who addresses issues on connecting healthy foods to local communities in his books, “Closing the Food Gap” and “Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas,” offered remarks on the American food system, and why its current condition is cause for concern. Winne also discussed possible actions to reimagine the food system at a more localized manner. A panel discussion concluded the evening, discussing the food system within south-central Pennsylvania and on-going work to improve this system. This Speakers Series event was held in conjunction with a day-long Symposium, held at Wilson College and funded in part by a South Mountain Mini-Grant awarded to Healthy Adams County. For more information about this Symposium, click here.
SOUTH MOUNTAIN: THE CRADLE OF CONSERVATION
Date: February 1, 2010
Location: Capitol Theater, Carlisle, PA
South Mountain’s history provides a conservation model for the rest of the nation, and an example of what we might use in confronting 21st Century environmental problems. During America’s Progressive Era, 1890-1917, citizens were instrumental in conserving their local forests. Much of the initial work occurred on South Mountain’s State Forest Commission’s reserve. Concerned citizens in organizations like Pennsylvania State Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Pennsylvania Forest Association lobbied for the funds for the Commission to reforest South Mountain, to create a school to train professional foresters, and to establish the Commonwealth’s state parks system. Dr. Susan Rimby’s lecture recounted the story of Pennsylvania’s early conservation history. Following the lecture, Dr. Rimby was joined by Scott Weidensaul (Ned Smith Nature Center) and Dan Marcucci (East Carolina University) for a discussion on current conservation issues.
SELLING CONSERVATION FROM THE 1890s TO THE 21st CENTURY
Date: May 10, 2010
Location: Penn State-Mont Alto
Dr. Peter Linehan, associate professor of Forestry at Mont Alto, discussed how the Pennsylvania Forestry Association mobilized and educated the public and influenced state lawmakers to revolutionize the management of forests in Pennsylvania. Nestled among the trees on the edge of the Michaux State Forest, Penn State Mont Alto has educated America’s foresters for over a century. It was one of the first forestry schools in the nation. The goal at that time was to crusade for a change from the barren hills caused by forest fires and charcoal production. Following the lecture, Dr. Linehan was joined by Nels Johnson (The Nature Conservancy) and Dr. James Grace (DCNR) for a discussion on contemporary forestry issues.
THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL: WALKING FROM THE PAST TO THE FUTURE
Date: July 10, 2010
Location: Pine Grove Furnace State Park
Six hikes at varying levels of difficulty brought together a range of individuals, from small children to the avid hikers. The hikers traveled in time as they walked along the Appalachian National Scenic and surrounding Park trails, with historians and interpreters sharing the rich local history that remains so evident on our landscape. These mini-lectures covered such topics as: local Native American history, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, the age of resource extraction/industrialization, a local history of plants and animals in the region, the history of the Appalachian Trail featuring the first through-hiker (Earl Shaffer), and a virtual tour of the local Appalachian National Scenic Trail and fun related activities.
FEEDING THE TROOPS, NOURISHING A NATION
Date: August 12, 2010
Location: Historic Round Barn, Biglerville, PA
Pennsylvania’s farmers played a unique role in supporting the Union troops during the Civil War, and indeed it was their farms that drew Robert E. Lee across the Mason Dixon line, into the “Pennsylvania Breadbasket,” and towards Gettysburg. Lenwood Sloan, director of cultural and heritage tourism for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania facilitated an open dialogue concerning preservation, conservation, and commemoration projects for the upcoming Civil War 150 commemoration and the year-long commemoration of American Patriots of the Civil War. Sloan also shared information about the United States Colored Troops (USCT) Hallowed ground project that is working to conserve a series of important historic sites in Adams, Franklin, and Cumberland Counties. A panel discussion concluded the evening by exploring present day topics of preserving the agricultural lands the troops fought so hard for.
FROM MOUNTAIN TO SEA: THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
Date: September 16, 2010
Location: Harrisburg Area Community College
The South Mountain landscape is nested within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and is an important area that influences the health of this estuary system. Dr. Claire Jantz (Shippensburg University) delivered a talk on the relationships and impacts of local land use and human activity on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The Bay is both the largest and historically most productive estuary in the U.S., and Dr. Jantz highlighted how sustainable development and smart growth strategies can help restore the bay’s health and productivity. The evening concluded with a panel discussion that discussed additional environmental issues facing the Bay.
GROWTH IN THE GARDEN: FOOD AND SUSTAINABILITY
Date: November 4, 2010
Location: Dickinson College
In collaboration with the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues at Dickinson College, this event featured a presentation by Dr. Sally McMurry (Penn State University) about the history of agriculture in Pennsylvania, with a focus on our local region. Understanding, preserving and revitalizing Pennsylvania’s historic agricultural landscapes can contribute to a sustainable farming future. Brian Snyder (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) followed Dr. McMurry by highlighting the South Mountain landscapes proximity to large population centers, and the opportunities that this opened for sustainably raised Pennsylvania farm products.
CONTESTING GETTYSBURG: PRESERVING AN AMERICAN BATTLEFIELD SHRINE
Date: December 1, 2010
Location: Shippensburg University
When the Gettysburg Battlefield quieted following the fighting in July 1863, another story began. Dr. Brian Black (Altoona College) recounted this story, which spans almost 150 years, of how the landscape at Gettysburg passed through many differing episodes in the culture of preservation, and national trends related to protecting our sacred symbols. Dr. Black was joined by Greg Goodell (National Park Service) and Mark Shaffer (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) for a panel discussion on the future of Gettysburg National Military Park and the relationship between environmental conservation and cultural preservation in the South Mountain region.