Preserving Priority Landscapes
The beautiful and varied landscapes of Western Pennsylvania range from high plateaus and mountain ridges to vast forests and rich river valleys. These lands and waterways provide bountiful recreational opportunities and support local economies. They also sustain native plants, animals and ecosystems that, in some cases, are found nowhere else on earth. Using science and information as our guide, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has prioritized the landscapes that we seek to conserve in order to maximize the impact of our work.
WPC's Priority Land and Water Conservation Regions include:
The Ohio River and Lower Allegheny Rivers are integral to the social, cultural, and economic fabric of Western Pennsylvania. Much of our region’s identity is derived from the rivers that run through it. Beyond their important economic and recreational value, the Ohio River and its tributaries represent one of the most diverse freshwater ecosystems on earth. For this reason, the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers are high-priority conservation targets, beginning at their headwaters in Pennsylvania and across the Midwest.
The Upper Allegheny Region includes a mix of glaciated and unglaciated landscapes that support some of the most diverse, productive and scenic forests and rivers in the eastern United States. This region encompasses the watershed of the free-flowing section of the Allegheny River in northwestern Pennsylvania and southwestern New York. At the heart of the region is the 500,000-acre Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania’s only national forest. The Allegheny National Forest is the linchpin of the 7,600 square mile mosaic of wilderness, working forests, wetlands, and farmland that makes up the Upper Allegheny Region.
The Lake Erie Region encompasses Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie coastline and tributary watersheds. Besides providing recreational opportunities that are vital to the local economy, the region exhibits unique geologic features and rare plants, animals and aquatic life that make a significant contribution to the diversity of the overall Lake Erie ecosystem.
The Laurel Highlands are a special place in Pennsylvania. Part of the Allegheny Mountains, the Laurel Highlands stretch from the Conemaugh River south into Maryland. The Laurel Highlands are known for their diversity of plant and animal life, forested mountain ridges, pristine streams, recreational opportunities and scenic beauty. The significant variety of landscapes in the Laurel Highlands produces a high level of forest community diversity.
The Juniata and Potomac Region encompasses the Potomac River tributary watersheds of Pennsylvania, the Juniata River basin, and the Nittany Valley. It comprises a large section of Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The region is characterized by long, forested mountain ridges running southwest to northeast interspersed with narrow valleys. Most of the human population in the region is concentrated in the valleys. Several of the valleys that sit on limestone bedrock support rich farmland.
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, a factor that has helped to sustain the wild character of the region.