Conservation Initiatives

Land Initiatives

Explore Our Trails

We preserve open space and disappearing wildlife habitat to ensure the continued beauty and environmental quality of the Wissahickon Valley. Our work happens on the original homelands of the Lenni-Lenape peoples.

Margaret Rohdei

Open Space Preservation

Partners: Montgomery County, Commonwealth of PA, Natural Lands, municipalities within the Wissahickon watershed, individual donors

Wissahickon Trails works with landowners and other partners to protect green spaces for wildlife and people. To date, we’ve preserved nearly 1,300 acres of open space, about the same amount of land as Center City Philadelphia, and created 24 miles of trails. We continually work to protect new areas already connected to preserved land, those that border or contain a stream or creek, and those that are important habitat for wildlife. We protect properties through acquisition or by using conservation easements. A conservation easement is a legal tool that allows property owners to grant conservation organizations the right to protect natural areas on private property for future generations. Learn more about conservation easements here.

Are you a landowner interested in protecting nature on your property? Explore a partnership with us by contacting John Ferro, Director of Conservation, 215-646-8866

Kristy Morleyi

Habitat Improvement & Management

We use a variety of strategies to manage and improve the preserves we steward. On a regular basis, we complete surveys of the plants, mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians that live on our properties, and we use that information to guide our work and measure our impact. Each preserve has, or will have, a 10-year conservation management plan that describes the current state of its landscape, identifies important habitats and species, outlines our vision for improving those habitats to support the greatest diversity of plants and wildlife, and describes the actions we will take to realize that vision.

Habitat enhancement and creation is critical in our work to conserve wildlife - particularly birds, which play an important role in healthy ecosystems and serve as indicators of environmental health. We focus on special projects to support species like eastern bluebirds, willow flycatchers, field sparrows, and chimney swifts, which are present in the Wissahickon but declining in number. For example, we’ve built artificial chimneys to serve as nesting and roosting sites for chimney swifts, and for bluebirds and other cavity nesting species, we have installed nest boxes at many of our preserves. Volunteer Citizen Scientists help us monitor these to learn more about local populations.


I feel it’s important as a young person to get involved as a citizen scientist because we are the next generation of people to help the environment. My favorite part of being a citizen scientist is finding salamanders and being with animals. It’s important for younger people to get involved and be part of making the world a better place.

Connor Bergson-Conklin, Citizen Science volunteer

(c)FRAN BROWN 2018i

Wildlife Monitoring

Partners: Powdermill Avian Research Center; Institute for Bird Populations; Caterpillars Count!; Monarch Watch; Monarch Larva Monitoring Project; Project Monarch Health, Cornell Lab of Ornithology NestWatch, community volunteers

Monitoring is key to knowing if our work on the landscape is benefitting the species we want to support. Our staff and volunteers monitor butterflies, salamanders, birds, frogs, and other species on our preserves throughout the year. By collecting data with community members, we are able to better care for local habitats. For example, monitoring migrating monarch butterflies showed us the need to increase the diversity of the plants they feed off of in our meadows. Bird surveys help us understand which birds rely on our preserves throughout the year, and allows us to document if and when changes occur. One way we monitor birds is by operating a summer banding station at Crossways Preserve. Trained staff capture and band wild birds to collect information about their populations that helps us, and the larger conservation community, understand what is driving bird declines so that we can be more focused in our work to conserve them.