Tue., Jul. 13, 2021

By Mary Lineberger, Gardener

We need to work together to preserve and protect natural areas as well as educate about nature and the environment. It’s a crucial collaboration!

LEAP, or Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for biodiversity, is a consortium of many organizations with conservation and nature-based missions. Because nature does not have political boundaries, LEAP encompasses the geographic boundary of the Lake Erie Allegheny Plateau. This is the glaciated lands and waters south of Canada from Sandusky Bay to the Allegheny Mountains. This region contains diverse habitats such as marshes, fens, and sand barrens. The region is also home to rare ecosystems that harbor many unique and uncommon species, such as Ohio’s spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) and yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum).

Spotted turtle

Yellow lady’s slipper

LEAP first convened in 2004 to aid in communication about conservation-related topics in our region. The initial meeting was spearheaded by Renee Boronka and Dr. Jim Bissell. They felt it important to join organizations that value the identification, protection, and restoration of biodiversity in our region. “Collectively, the Partnership has protected 267,928 acres: 177,429 by ownership; 90,499 by conservation easement or management contract.” (

Cleveland Metroparks, Lakeland Community College, Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, the City of Mentor, and of course, Holden Forests and Gardens are a few of the over 50 member organizations in LEAP. HF&G has representatives to LEAP from our Research, Horticulture, Education, as well as Conservation Departments, but anyone can attend the bi-monthly meetings.

The meetings are friendly and informative. There is a scheduled speaker as well as time for representatives to report on their own organization. Holden Forests & Garden’s own Dr. David Burke spoke at a LEAP meeting in 2019 about research related to beech leaf disease (BLD). Rachel Kappler, HF&G’s Forest Health coordinator, spoke at the May LEAP meeting. Other wonderful talks have been Don Cippolini’s on garlic mustard and its impact on West Virginia White butterflies; Judy Semroc’s awesome presentation on Chimney Swifts, Jon Cepek from Cleveland Metroparks gave an enlightening talk on urban coyotes, and Sarah Stankavich a young scientist with ODNR talked about the issues our Ohio bats are having.

This July the meeting is a bio-blitz field day at Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Osborne/Vrooman Preserve.

The website, has lots of wonderful information about the Lake Erie Allegheny Plateau. You can view a customized climate change model for our region, this alone is worth visiting the site! There is a “Resources for Learning and Action” page, information on white-tailed deer management and local pollinators, resources about native plants, and descriptions of the natural communities that are the basis of biological diversity in the Lake Erie Allegheny region.

Our region’s unique, natural resources are of interest to all. Even though we may work for different organizations or volunteer our time & services to only a few regional nature places, we can come together via LEAP. Check out the website, if you haven’t already, attend a meeting, make a connection and join the crucial collaboration!

The next LEAP meeting will be in mid-September.

Mary Lineberger

Mary Lineberger


Mary Lineberger is a Gardener in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden. Previously she was Garden Manager at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History as well as a seasonal hire at Holden in 2015 and 2016. She is pictured here with Norman, who before joining Mary’s family, was a scrawny stray wandering the woods surrounding Holden Arboretum.


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