Understanding how far you’ve traveled requires stopping to look back to where you started.
Pennsylvania’s Conservation Heritage Museum offerS just that perspective. Opened to the public on Saturday, June 25 at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area Visitor Center in Stevens, on the border of Lebanon and Lancaster counties, the new museum shows how stewardship of the state’s wildlife evolved — and continues to do so — over time.
Work to develop the museum began about five years ago. Now-retired Game Warden Bill Bower had a huge collection of memorabilia related to conservation and the Game Commission. He was looking for a way to permanently share these pieces of history.
That led to a new wing at Middle Creek for the Heritage Museum.
“The opening of the museum is something that’s been long anticipated,” said Lauren Ferreri, the Game Commission’s Biological & Visitor Manager at Middle Creek. “It features a chronological walk-through explaining how the Game Commission came to be and why it was so needed to protect wildlife.”
The Game Commission was created in 1895, at a time when many now-common species of wildlife were in trouble. Some had already disappeared, victims of unregulated exploitation and habitat loss. Still others, like bald eagles, would all but vanish decades later because of pollution and environmental contaminants.
The Game Commission, together with partner conservationists, turned all that around. White-tailed deer, black bears and beavers are once again found all over the state; large raptors like eagles, peregrine falcons and ospreys have come off the state’s threatened and endangered lists; otters are expanding, too.
Bringing those restorations about wasn’t always easy and not every recovery strategy proved worthwhile. And, certainly, challenges remain. But current and future generations can enjoy healthy habitats and healthy wildlife because of assorted laws, protections and management practices put into place over the past century-plus.
The Conservation Heritage Museum will tell that story.
Ferreri said it will showcase the old and the new. Visitors, for example, will be able to compare the equipment used by Game Wardens in the early 1900s with what officers use today. There will also be historic hunting and trapping tools, hunter education and wildlife management materials, photographs, wildlife art and publications like Pennsylvania Game News magazine, and more memorabilia to see.
And touch, too. Ferreri said that while some exhibits will be under glass, others are interactive, offering visitors the opportunity to literally get a feel for history.
“Conservation involves a constantly-changing learning curve,” Ferreri said. “New research, new technologies, new understanding, they all drive the protection of wildlife. The Conservation Heritage Museum aims to show how far we’ve come and offer some insight on where we’re headed.”
Middle Creek already draws about 150,000 people a year. Visitors descend on the site to walk trails, take part in controlled hunts and view wildlife, like the migrating snow geese that arrive by the hundreds of thousands each spring.
The museum will give those people, and the thousands of school children who visit each year with families or as part of organized school groups, one more attraction to take in.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area’s Visitor Center is located at 100 Museum Road, Stevens, PA 17578. Admission to it and the Conservation Heritage Museum is free during regular center hours, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
Ferreri invites people out to see what the Conservation Heritage Museum has to say about the distance — measured in miles, years and lessons — between where Keystone State conservation started and where it’s at now.