Close to the Earth:
A Tribute to John Bzdil Jr.
CBF Partner and Steward of the Land
Tucked in the far eastern end of Penns Valley,
Pennsylvania, at the foot of Winkelblech
Mountain lies over 400 acres of land where
wild turkeys roam, black bears ramble, and
wild trout chase after freshly hatched mayflies.
In this little patch of paradise in Centre
County, freshly planted trees grow, frogs croak
in wetlands created just for them, and whitetail deer hide in four-foot-tall native grasses.
This is a place that has been cared for,
watched over, and conserved for future generations of both people and wildlife. And it
is a place that one family feels truly blessed
to oversee. That family is the Bzdil family.
But talk to any member of the family and
they’ll tell you that it was one man’s vision
that created this oasis of nature, the patriarch of the family, John Bzdil Jr.
“He truly believed that we are merely stewards
of the land and must help make it better than
provides cleaner water,
wildlife habitat, and
a lasting legacy.
it was when we purchased it,” John Bzdil III
said of his father. “He would often stop while
hunting and just watch leaves floating downstream in the clear waters of Pine Creek.”
In 1986 when Bzdil Jr. and wife Theresa purchased the first 60 acres, the fields were
heavily farmed and the woods were timbered
without thought to the future, leaving little
wildlife habitat or valuable timber. “We really knew we had our work cut out for us,”
Bzdil III said.
Working with local Natural Resource
Conservation Service field staff and Frank
Rohrer, a CBF Pennsylvania Stream Restoration
Specialist, the Bzdils developed a plan for the
property. They enrolled in the Conservation
Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and
the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), both
through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Through CREP they established nearly 60
acres of native grassland habitat and 21 acres
of streamside forest buffers. Both practices
protect streams and create valuable wildlife
habitat. Rohrer provided technical assistance
for the establishment of both the streamside
buffers. “When I first stepped foot onto
John’s property, I instantly knew it had
become my favorite. Ten years later, it still
remains my favorite property to visit,” Rohrer
says. He continues to assist the family by
watching over the fledgling forests.
“In the end, it’s the landowner who really
determines the success of these types of
projects, and the Bzdils are diligent about
maintaining each and every conservation
practice on the property.”
In addition to the CREP practices, 42
acres of wetlands have been preserved
and some created through WRP. And
among the many additional efforts, they
have planted thousands of trees, created
fish habitats, controlled invasive plants,
and built deer exclosures to encourage
Twenty years later, the now 402-acre property boasts ample fish and wildlife and plenty
“He always had some type of project to do
that would help the environment, and he
taught us an ideal to appreciate the land,”
said John III about his father’s work ethic.
“My brother and I remember some Sunday
nights, just being so tired from the weekend’s projects. But we had an appreciation
for what we had accomplished.”
And what they’ve accomplished is something great.
Special Note: John Bzdil Jr. passed away on
March 13, 2013, at the age of 67, leaving
behind a lasting legacy for present and
uFrank Rohrer, author, submitted this story.
It has been revised for the Pennsylvania Bay
Briefs. To read the full story, go to
Through a strong work ethic and sense of stewardship for the land, the Bzdil Family
(left to right: Mike Bzdil, John Bzdil Jr., and John Bzdil III) has transformed more than 400 acres
into an oasis of wildlife habitat and clean waters.