Now Available: Video of Central PA Chapter’s February 2nd Program!

Volunteer Participation in Rails-to-Trails Habitat Restoration

On Wednesday, February 2 at 7:00pm, the Central PA Chapter of PA IPL hosted a discussion between Greg Williams, PA IPL Coordinator of Habitat Restoration; Ethan Imhoff, Board President of Central PA Rails to Trails (the Lower Trail); and John Frederick, Antis Township Recreation and Environmental Code Director who also is leading the charge on the extension of the Bells Gap RTT, where PA IPL began volunteering 3 years ago.

The idea of using abandoned rail lines as trails for recreation, historic conservation, exercise, and connecting and enhancing communities began in the mid-1960’s and has expanded to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light is a 12-year-old organization of congregations as well as people of faith and conscience concerned about global warming. Six years ago, the Lower Trail allowed PA IPL volunteers to embark on a habitat restoration program with the goal of removing non-native invasive plants that are crowding out native trees and shrubs. Hundreds of volunteers of all ages have, through this work, opened-up views from the trail, and planted thousands of increasingly scarce native trees and shrubs donated by Chesapeake Bay Foundation. These native plants are still available for free. They restore the base of the food chain that feeds native insects and thus native birds, are an investment in the future of more diverse and healthier ecosystems, and are the primary way to sequester excess carbon in our atmosphere.

We are particularly interested in matching other Rails to Trails programs across Pennsylvania with PA IPL members who might be interested in habitat restoration volunteering.

Stories from the Road — we are stronger together!

Learn about August’s Stories from the Road, see how our donation tree is growing and help us meet our $30,000 fundraising goal to lift and support our faith-grounded work toward climate justice. There are now 2 ways to double your donation!

“We’re regularly in the cathedral of God’s creation”

Sun shines and birds sing as PA IPL Board member Greg Williams takes us to Detwiler Park in Huntingdon, PA, one of the many locations where he has helped volunteers had made green spaces resistant to climate change through habitat restoration.

2018 and 2019 cyclists stopped there to remove invasive species and plant trees, adding to the 592 events, over 400 participants, and over 3500 person-hours of pruning, clearing, and planting nearly 2500 trees, three wildflower meadows, and over 1000 live stakes in Central Pennsylvania between November 2016 and June 2020! (You can see the live stakes in the video: they are live stick segments from ecosystem-appropriate shrubs stuck into the muck stream side, which then root and grow, protecting the banks!)

Listen to Greg’s story below, or catch his 10 minute sermon for University Mennonite Church’s zoom-based church gathering on Sunday, May 10, 2020 (the rest of the service is pretty great, too!)

Other voices from the road: Mark Smith

Mark Smith of Philadelphia drove a support car for the Philadelphia leg of the 2019 bike trip (that’s him in the little red car!). He leads the Germantown Tree Tenders, part of the work of the PA IPL – Philadelphia, and is also supported by Mark’s home church: the First United Methodist Church of Germantown. Planting and tending trees in the city of Philadelphia is a way to reduce urban heat islands, which are growing and intensifying with climate change. Read Mark’s reflections.

Two ways to DOUBLE your donation!

Feel free to mismatch your socks and your silverware, but get your donations matched while you can!

Supporters of PA IPL’s Stories from the Road Campaign have two ways to see their contributions matched. A group of generous donors has created a matching fund of up to $4,000, doubling the contribution impact of right-now givers during the August campaign.

Those who make a three-year pledge will have their first year of donation matched by an individual donor through our For the Long Haul campaign. We are immensely grateful for the generous people seeding our growing organization’s fundraising efforts.


Take Action: Make your local ecosystem climate change resistant

Here are Greg Williams’ top five ways to combat climate change through habitat restoration. Need more guidance or advice? Contact Greg to get connected to books, trees, and advice for setting up local habitat restoration projects.

1. Read one of these books on restoring native habitat by University of Delaware entomologist Douglas W. TallamyBringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants; Nature’s Best Hope; or The Living Landscape.   Or you can start with a listen to this Bringing Nature Home interview from 2013, or if you really want to get into the relationship between birds and insects and plants, try this Hope for the Wild zoo talk.

2.  Reduce the size of the lawn at your home or congregation and replace it with native trees, shrubs, wildflower meadows, or food gardens. Want to know what’s growing there already? The  iNaturalist app lets you submit photos of plants and animals for identification, and contribute to research on biodiversity. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has a helpful collection of online fact sheets and photos of invasive plants and how to remove them.

3. Host a series of earth tending parties for your worship community, youth group, neighbors, or budding PA IPL chapter. (Work, Eat, Pray is one example.)

Teach participants to identify and remove invasive species, see the fruits of their labor over time, and have a conversation on the effects of global warming on the natural spaces they love. This can be done on the property of your faith community, or in a local park (with permission from park authorities!) Contact a local naturalist or extension agent for help with plant identification and removal. 

4, Ask your local nursery if it sells native trees, shrubs, and flowers which support native pollinators as well as being feeding grounds for native insect larva.  These Pennsylvania nurseries do carry native trees, and should be able to help you choose one for your site.  The linked list is from our friends at Keystone 10 Million Trees.

5. Plant those trees! They trap and hold (sequester) a huge amount of the carbon dioxide that causes global warming, and they temper the immediate microclimates in the neighborhoods where they are planted. The Philadelphia chapter of PA IPL partners with the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s Tree Tenders program to plant trees in the Philadelphia region. Learn about their Zoom-based training in September. 

If you live near central Pennsylvania, Greg Williams, who lives in Williamsburg, is distributing trees from the Keystone 10 Million Trees initiative of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which aims to  plant 10 million trees in Pennsylvania by 2025. Contact him.  You can also watch a recording of the November 2019 webinar for PA IPL with Keystone 10 Million Trees.

Turn to prayer

Please hold PA IPL and all who are working toward climate justice in your prayers through the week.

In 2019, PA IPL supporters “paved the cyclists’ way with prayer,” submitting original prayers, poems and artwork to express the deep faith that underlies their commitment to climate justice and care. The cyclists shared a compilation of these prayers with elected officials in Washington, as part of their advocacy conversations. Each week we are featuring a different prayer from the collection.

This week’s prayer is excerpted from a poem written in 2019 by  Lynn Cashell of Congregation Beth Israel, Media PA:

God is an artist
Creating majestic mountains from molten lava and magma
Forming stoic woodlands and flowing grasslands;
Bursting through the earth’s crust in towering geysers;
Sliding down glaciers into rocky moraines.

God is a painter
Brushing long flat strokes of plains and prairies;
Dabbing puffy white clouds onto azure blue skies;
Cascading waterfalls from mountain springs;
Coloring rainbows from an unending palette of pigments.

God is a creator
Sending aloft soaring bald eagles and osprey;
Filling the grassland with bison, sheep and pronghorn deer,
Stocking the streams with cutthroat trout and dam building beavers;
Varying our sizes, shapes and colors like the landscapes that surround us;
Imagining all of us – together.

Save the date— Stories from the Road Live Celebration, Sept. 1

On Sep. 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, we’ll culminate our campaign with a live zoom-based Stories from the Road Celebration, featuring live music, prayer, storytelling, and a chance to share your own stories of climate work with people throughout the state. 

The event is free with a donation to PA IPL during the Stories from the Road campaign (June through August) Additional tickets can be purchased for $10. Seating is limited, so donate now!

Work, Eat, Pray

Several locations benefit from regular Habitat Restoration care by dedicated groups of willing hands — most led by PA IPL Board President Greg Williams.  Look for “work party” offerings on our Events Calendar, or email to get on Greg’s lists (he turns out events faster than the deskbound can keep up during the growing season!) — or to learn from him about how to organize something like this in your community, or near your house of worship.  

Recently three Episcopal Churches in Blair and Huntingdon counties joined together to create a workparty to remove invasive plants and encourage resilient natives along a nearby rail trail, — and to also shared meal, and share an evening prayer service.  We got a great report from Greg, and learned that one participant referred to the event in her next-Sunday sermon.  Enjoy the report, below!  

Members of St. Luke’s, Altoona,  Holy Trinity, Hollidaysburg,  and St. John’s, Huntingdon,  all Episcopal Churches from Blair and Huntingdon counties met on Thursday August 16, from 4-7:30 p.m.,  with several goals in mind:

  • To give these parishes a chance to work together and better get to know each other,
  • To make a public statement that the Episcopal Church cares about climate change and our churches are making a long term commitment to do something about it,
  • To WORK for a couple hours removing  non-native invasive plants from the Mt. Etna station area on the Lower Trail with the goal of returning next Spring and planting native plants that will better support insects, the base of a healthy ecosystem. This healthier ecosystem protects the river, feeds toads (like this one who showed up to encourage us), cleans our air, and takes carbon from our atmosphere thus nudging us away from global warming,
  • To EAT, (as is appropriate at any church event) a delicious potluck picnic, chat, and build community,
  • To PRAY Evening Prayer, at dusk, as the storm clouds which had been building but not raining on our event, called an end to the event.

We had 11 joyous participants ranging from 7 to 70 who rode bikes, clipped privet from the safety of the trail, waded in behind the stinging nettle to open up new areas for planting native trees next Spring, or scooped up the clippings and laid them back in the forest to decompose and feed the soil.

There was talk that we may do it again, as early as October, perhaps with the addition of a VIP! Stay tuned for details. For more information, to sign up your faith community for a similar work party, or to get on our mailing list for future events, contact  Greg Williams, organizer of the event and member of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light.

Philadelphia Water Department working with houses of worship

This blog post features a recent project and grants initiative from the Philadelphia Water Department, but stormwater is an issue across the state, particularly as rainfall events become more intense.  Many of our cities have combined sewer outflow.  Torrential rain events lead to boil water advisories in Pittsburgh many times each year, and they also have green infrastructure plans.  Ask your local water department about stormwater abatement, click through to some how-tos below, and check out this LWV newsletter about several projects, including at member congregation Grace Lutheran Church in State College.  Document your changes so you can tell the story in your congregation, share it with us, and even submit it to the national IPL Cool Congregations Challenge (for activity completed in one calendar year), or get certified through the National Wildlife Federation under their Sacred Grounds certification program. 

As the world gets warmer, cities will increasingly suffer from extreme heat events. The hard construction materials used to build cities soak up heat, causing an “urban heat-island effect.” Building new green spaces is one of the best ways to fight the worsening heat in cities.

The Philadelphia Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters plan is a 25-year effort to manage stormwater in the city by building new green “tools” around the city. These tools include specially engineered trees, rain gardens, and planters. While the first priority of Green City, Clean Waters is to manage stormwater, new urban green spaces have a heat-reduction effect. Keep reading to learn about a church Continue reading Philadelphia Water Department working with houses of worship