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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Building on a 75-Year Legacy of Land Conservation


75 Years of Land Conservation

In its 75 year history, WPC has protected nearly a quarter-million acres of Western Pennsylvania land, creating recreational opportunities and water access, as well as safeguarding wildlife habitats throughout our region. Here, we highlight a few notable acquisitions:

1945 McConnells Mill and Slippery Rock Gorge

In addition to protecting the historic gristmill, WPC’s first major acquisition conserved 1,000 acres of Slippery Rock gorge, a site that was carved out by meltwaters of the last continental glaciation. Today, hikers at McConnell’s Mill State Park enjoy tall hemlocks and sandstone boulders the size of small homes on trails that wind down the deep gorge above Slippery Rock Creek.  This forested valley has also been designated as an Important Bird Area, by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society.


1951 Ohiopyle

Few areas rival the natural beauty of Ohiopyle State Park, where rafters, campers and hikers experience the Youghiogheny River as it meanders through Laurel Ridge for 20,000 undisturbed acres. Unusual habitats here harbor numerous plants and animals of special concern, including some of national significance.  WPC raised the money to purchase the land, thanks largely to a grant from Fallingwater’s owner Edgar Kaufmann Sr. The WPC purchase halted a developer’s plans to clear Ferncliff Peninsula, which lies at the center of Ohiopyle, and build an amusement park. 

1959 Moraine State Park

WPC Board Member Dr. Frank Preston recognized that Muddy Creek once supplied a vast lake filled with the melted waters of the last glacier period. His dream was to reconstruct, on a smaller scale, that glacial lake and provide the region with a waterfowl rest stop and a major new recreational area. The park is now an Important Bird Area (Pa. Audubon).  Preston enlisted the support of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and, in 1969, Moraine State Park opened. Today, more than one million visitors arrive each year, making it the second-most heavily visited park in Pennsylvania.

1963 Fallingwater

Edgar Kaufmann jr. entrusted Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and its surrounding 1,543 acres to WPC. Today, the Bear Run Nature Reserve encompasses almost 70 percent of the Bear Run watershed within 5,061 acres. The reserve protects habitats for native plants and animals, a developing old growth forest, and offers more than 20 miles of hiking trails that are open to the public.



1966 Laurel Ridge State Park

WPC conserved 11,230 acres along Laurel Ridge, from the Youghiogheny River to the Conemaugh River. The land became a substantial part of Laurel Ridge State Park and the  scenic 70 mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.



1970 Allegheny River shoreline and islands

To date, WPC has protected 22 river islands totaling more than 500 acres along the river. Several of these islands are now part of the Allegheny River Islands Wilderness, a component of Allegheny National Forest. Additionally, the Conservancy has protected 19,500 acres of shoreline, floodplain, valley slope and tributary watersheds.  Due to the diversity of aquatic life, some of which is listed as federally endangered, the Allegheny River is one of the most important waterways in North America. 


1971 Laurel Hill

WPC conserved 9,500 acres of wild mountain land along the west slope of Laurel Hill in Westmoreland and Somerset counties as part of Forbes State Forest.



1979 Cherry Run

WPC acquired 12,670 acres of wild mountain land in Clinton and Centre counties for the creation of a major State Game Land (#295). This Cherry Run project is the largest single acquisition in WPC history.  Much of the acreage originally protected is part of a significant forest and was identified as a priority watershed in WPC’s Conservation Blueprint.



1991 Roderick Reserve (State Gamelands #314)

3,131 acres in the northwest corner of Erie County represent the largest stretch of undeveloped Lake Erie shoreline from Toledo to Buffalo.  Two and a half miles of undisturbed beach welcome an array of wildlife. This site was originally purchased by U.S. Steel to build a steel mill.  This site has been designated as an Important Bird Area by Pennsylvania Audubon.



1996 The Clarion River

WPC began working to bring back the once-dead Clarion River in 1978.  In 1996, Congress designated a 51-mile stretch of the river as a Scenic and Recreational River.  To date, WPC has protected more than 13,000 acres along the Clarion River corridor.



2004 Erie Bluffs State Park

A mile of shoreline with scenic views from 90-foot bluffs, Erie Bluffs also contains old-growth forest, rare and endangered flora, an uncommon “oak savannah sand barren” ecosystem, exceptional value wetlands and significant archaeological sites. Erie Bluffs was the first state park created in 20 years.  This portion of the lake front is featured on WPC’s Conservation Blueprint.



2008 The 75th Anniversary Acquisitions

WPC protects 11,400 acres of priority lands and watersheds in five counties. Newly protected areas include the Southern Clarion River Forest, Laurel Hill Creek Forest and the Bennett Branch Forest. In addition to providing new, scenic areas for recreation, these purchases help to connect large tracts of forestland, protect and restore important waterways, and provide habitats for native species.