Conserving Montandon Marsh: Working Together for the Future
In the 1970s, when Tony Markunas bought a piece of Montandon Marsh, he didn’t see the wetland. He didn’t even know what a wetland really was. “I didn’t know how interesting and valuable wetlands are,” he said.
His eye was on the high-quality sand and gravel embedded in the Northumberland County parcel — just another acquisition for his family’s business, Central Builders Supply Company, operating out of Sunbury since his father bought the firm in 1932.
Markunas, chairman of the board of the mining company, may not have understood what he had, but the volunteers with the Merrill W. Linn Land & Waterways Conservancy did. It didn’t take long for them to catch up with him.
They found him willing to listen, and the relationship began. “They were so excited about it, and it rubs off,” Markunas explained. “You get exposed to life that you didn’t know about, and you find out that this is such a diverse sanctuary. It is,” he said emphatically, “an asset to the area.” Markunas still intends to remove the sand and gravel from the parcel, and the process is expected to last as long as three decades. But he also intends to restore and conserve the land, actions that he downplays as just what a local business ought to do.
Already, Central Builders Supply has conserved 77 acres of its holdings with a conservation easement, an agreement with the Merrill W. Linn Land & Waterways Conservancy to permanently protect the natural values of the land while keeping the land in the company’s ownership and control.
The company is also involving the conservancy in its planning for the areas it continues to mine. The company’s intention is to devise a strategy for these areas that results in the best possible conservation after mining is completed.
“We can see the potential for artificial wet sites, and depending on how it’s done and how they backfill, this could be an area of wetlands of considerable size,” said Professor Allen Schweinsberg, a former director of the Conservancy and a keen birder who knows Montandon Marsh intimately.