LEHMAN TWP. — Sweeping seven-foot-tall prairie grasses are the welcome mat to the diverse wildlife and plant habitats located in the Lehman Sanctuary.
The 17.5-acre sanctuary located off Jackson Road features trees that are over 250 years old, a rare Great Blue Heron rookery, nearly nine vernal pools of water and an abundant variety of amphibians, as well as other wildlife, said operator Chris Miller.
Miller, who has lived on the property for the past 18 years, began hosting class field trips to connect children with nature in 2006.
“I always felt a connection to the natural world,” Miller said. “I feel it is a calling to connect young lives with the world around us.”
Over the years, Miller had several biologists come onto the property to study the diverse habitats.
Biologist Jerry Skinner from Keystone Junior College came to examine the amphibians in the wetland, Miller said. Skinner found rare four-toed salamanders, Miller said.
“He identified one four-toed salamander in Susquehanna County,” Miller said. “Here he found dozens.”
Wyoming Valley Montessori School students installed several field cameras and caught images of an Eastern Gray Fox and coyotes, he said.
Just this spring, Miller watched a young fawn playing around the edge of the prairie grass and a baby turkey in the high grass.
“If you sit still enough (in nature) things will unfold in front of you,” Miller said. “Chipmunks will come out. A whole new world develops.”
In October 2015, Miller acquired the 501c3 nonprofit status, enabling him to apply for grants to help fund his labor of love.
As a result, he received a $7,900 grant from Pennsylvania American Water to place a 15-by-26-foot building to serve as an indoor field station. The building will provide shelter to visiting classes as they learn how the native prairie grass helps to filter storm water run-off and protect the delicate wetland ecosystems below.
Miller established a Go Fund Me campaign to help cover the remaining $4,750 costs associated with the building.
Miller is also in need of environmentally-minded volunteers to help with scheduled field trips and trail maintenance.
Miller and his two children, Elijah, 17, and Jessie, 12, have worked to maintain a winding trail through the prairie grass and into the forest, but as more people schedule visits, more help is needed.
The Lehman Sanctuary is in Miller’s backyard, so it is only open to the public by appointments.
To schedule a visit, call 570-406-2639 or email Miller at [email protected]
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.