ENVIRONMENT

Bennett Branch Forest

About two and a half hours northeast of Pittsburgh, almost to Benezette, Pa., there is a deeply forested property called Bennett Branch Forest. The 1,500-acre tract is owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and nearly surrounded by Moshannon State Forest. A visitor can hike Bennett Branch Forest on old logging…

A seasonal song

Walk to the trailhead behind the Audubon Society’s Beechwood Farms nature center on Dorseyville Road, and you’ll briefly head down toward the meadow and then uphill, west, toward the upper fields. Stroll beneath the canopy of older trees until you reach the clearings. Look up, look low and listen. That…

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

Many of us from Pittsburgh regularly visit the Laurel Highlands to ski, hunt or fish. But to really get a feel for the forests and streams of the Laurel Highlands, a long hike can be a way to see more and to get a better sense of this exceptional place.

Lost Turkey Trail

One of the more remote hiking trails in western Pennsylvania is the Lost Turkey Trail. The western end of this 26-​mile trail is in Gallitzin State Forest in northeastern Somerset County. The trail then passes into Bedford and Cambria counties across State Game Lands 26, and ends in Blue Knob…

The Canada goose

One fall evening in New England when I was an undergraduate, I heard honking so loud it had the force of an approaching train, lasting for several minutes as geese flew by. They faded into the night but have stayed with me since.

Hardwood Trails, Bedford County

One of my favorite places to hike and explore is a property not far to the east of the Laurel Highlands. Driving east along the Pennsylvania Turnpike just past Somerset takes you across the eastern continental divide into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where the Laurel Highlands give way to the…

Final flight: Lessons of the Passenger Pigeon

During our colonial period, America’s forests were felled slowly. Beginning in New England, subsistence farming and the promise of better lands to the west meant regions were settled and cleared for agriculture, then abandoned, only to regenerate. This pattern cycle of destruction and reforestation created a patchwork of fields that…

The Pittsburgh Pigeon

displaced Pittsburghers soon will come home again. The pigeons of Mellon Square, bumped by renovations scheduled to culminate next year, are some of my favorite birds to watch, a bit of the wild smack dab in the middle of “dahntahn.” Don’t disparage these half-​pound fast fliers.

Quebec Run Wild Area, Fayette County

One of the nicest hikes in western Pennsylvania is the Quebec Run portion of Forbes State Forest. Quebec Run is located in the southern Laurel Highlands on the eastern flank of Chestnut Ridge, in Fayette County, and is a property with beautiful streamside trails, rhododendron thickets, sandstone outcrops, eastern hemlock…

A Model Specimen

There is a reason i am a birder and not a surgeon. As I was driving one spring, I passed something bright orange on the side of the street. I couldn’t quite make it out, but I had my suspicions. Like many birders, I’m willing to watch a bird wherever…

Warning Signs

On the first warm day of May, Jim Chestney cuts through thickets of black huckleberry and laurel and ponders his impending climb to a timber rattlesnake den on a central Pennsylvania mountain.

Greening the region

It was 1868 — when looking down from the Hill District to smokestacks belching fire and smoke, a riverbank littered with coal barges and railroads, and a bottomland saturated with muddy streets and gritty row houses pressed hard against the Allegheny River, Boston writer James Parton described Pittsburgh as “Hell with the…

A World Leader

Sitting in the bright, airy café at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Richard Piacentini stamps his foot on the floor. The tiles he thuds against are simple white squares. However, that hardly noticed floor has proven to be both bane and catalyst to a sea change in thinking about every…

Was Rachel Carson Right?

Patricia DeMarco, Director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University, has heard the question before. Has history — and science — proven that Springdale, Pa., native Rachel Carson was right in her book, “Silent Spring”? Not just about the most celebrated of her attacks — the impact on the environment of the widely used herbicide…

The urban bear

State bear biologist Mark Ternent pulls an oversized syringe from an arsenal of gear at the back of his truck, loads it with a strong sedative, and affixes it to a dart with hot-​pink fletching.
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