West Branch Susquehanna Region

Some of the largest expanses of forestland in the eastern United States are within the headwaters of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, the largest tributary system of Susquehanna River. The region is characterized by vast high plateaus cut by deep valleys. The West Branch Susquehanna Region contains approximately 1.7 million acres of public land. This, more than any other factor, has helped to sustain the wild character of the region.


The West Branch Susquehanna Region is defined by its vast expanses of forestland. The region’s large remote areas of interior forest support a significant proportion of Pennsylvania’s black bear population as well as nesting habitat for forest interior birds. Forests are also a key factor contributing to the overall high quality of region’s streams.

Topographic depressions on the plateau create geophysical conditions that support high-elevation forested wetlands. The forests of these wetlands ranges from hemlock and white pine to boreal species including tamarack, balsam fir, and black spruce. These wetlands are also support rare plants and insects and are important habitat for birds.

The plateau and valleys of the region are drained by streams  and rivers that support fish populations that are a popular recreational resource for anglers. These waterways also support several rare freshwater mussel species. These streams also contribute significantly to the overall quality of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Several of the tributaries to the West Branch are impacted by the region’s legacy of coal mining in the form of Acid Mine Drainage. Fortunately, federal, state, and local efforts have begun to install treatment infrastructure that will improve overall water quality in the region.

WPC Strategies:

  • Partnering with local watershed groups, Trout Unlimited, DEP, DCNR, PA Fish and Boat Commission to address Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) pollution to streams and rivers
  • Conserving existing high-value forests with innovative and cost-effective land protection tools like conservation easements
  • Protecting and stewarding high biodiversity areas such as old-growth forests, riparian forests, and wetlands
  • Conducting inventories of native natural communities and species to support local land and water use planning
  • Conducting inventories of freshwater mussel populations
  • Water quality monitoring
  • Stream-bank stabilization projects
  • Working with local municipalities to implement dirt and gravel road best management practices 
  • Facilitating Watershed Conservation Planning to support local conservation initiatives 


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