Penelec Green Team Joins Forces with Volunteers to Plant Trees to Shade Trout
Plant a tree and shade a trout. Wait a minute, fish get sunburned?
They don’t. But native brook trout require clear, chilly waters to thrive and reproduce in Long Run and other swift-moving streams in Pennsylvania’s northern tier.
Historically, the Eastern Hemlock tree has shaded the streams cascading down the region’s steep ravines on their journey to Pine Creek, the world-renowned trout haven that carved the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Today, however, an insect pest called the hemlock woolly adelgid threatens to kill the hemlocks that shield trout waters throughout the Pine Creek’s 950-square-mile watershed. The die-off would expose streams to direct sunlight, raising water temperatures to the point where native trout could no longer survive.
Safeguarding the watershed’s 95,000 acres of hemlock forest is a priority to Jim Weaver, a retired biologist with a serious fly-fishing habit at the helm of the Pine Creek Watershed Council.
“We know that as an organization, we won't be able to deal with the adelgid,” he said. “What we can do is plant surrogates – white pine, spruce and other conifers – along streams to provide shade for the trout.”
That’s where FirstEnergy and Penelec have come in to support the ongoing effort.
The Penelec Green Team, employee volunteers dedicated to supporting environmental initiatives, recently joined Weaver and others from the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Trout Unlimited to plant 500 baby trees provided by the council along the banks of Long Run that runs through State Game Lands No. 208 in Tioga County.
The council and volunteers have planted 10,000 trees in the Pine Creek watershed over the past three years and are on pace to plant 2,000 more in 2023 as part of the council’s “Plant a Tree, Shade a Trout” initiative.
FirstEnergy, parent company of Penelec, has donated and planted more than 40,000 trees across its six-state service territory since 2021. This initiative supports the company’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, promote responsible use of natural resources and advance sustainable practices.
“I want to do good things for the environment,” said Les Wilber, a Penelec forester tasked with implementing plans to trim trees and control vegetation near the company’s energy delivery system to provide reliable electric service for customers.
Prior to planting, the fine, hairy roots of the trees were soaked in a solution containing a friendly fungus that encourages robust root growth. That helps the trees grow faster and improves their survival odds. In return, the trees offer carbohydrates and sugars for the fungus to flourish.
The trees will provide a riparian buffer in addition to shade, fighting streambank erosion and preventing silt and sediment from washing into the creek. Clear water is another hallmark of Class A trout waters, a designation for those best streams that harbor sustainable native trout populations.
Although wild brook trout live and reproduce in Long Run, their numbers are too few for Class A consideration. Silt suffocates trout eggs and stymies reproduction. The hope is that the new trees will help Long Run eventually achieve Class A status.
As part of the company’s core value of stewardship, Penelec volunteers also have devoted time and resources to a wide variety of programs including electronics recycling events, free tree giveaways and removal of invasive plant species from public places throughout FirstEnergy’s footprint.
For more information about FirstEnergy’s environmental and corporate responsibility efforts to build a brighter and more sustainable future, visit www.fecorporateresponsibility.com.
MEDIA CONTACT: Todd Meyers, (724) 838-6650