Western Pennsylvania is one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse places in the country. And, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is working to keep our region this way.
Our land conservation work permanently protects our region’s exceptional places – such as the high plateaus, mountain ridges, wildlife habitats, waterways, open space, farmland and scenic landscapes – that make our region so unique and special.
Since 1932, we’ve protected more than a quarter million acres of these natural places. These lands and waterways are also providing a bounty of recreational opportunities for us and the next generation to enjoy.
Explore Our Properties
Love to hike or fish, or just want to get away? Explore 45 different properties to enjoy nature and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Farmland Access Initiative
We’re helping farmers by working to acquire properties suitable for sustainable, locally-grown food for the Pittsburgh region.
We own, care for and manage 45 properties totaling more than 13,000 acres that are open to the public.
Conservation Buyers Program
Conservation-minded real estate buyers can partner with us to purchase land, subject to conservation restrictions.
We take a science-based approach to our work and initiatives to protect land, waterways and wildlife habitats.
The Conservancy has been fortunate to play a role in safeguarding some of the region’s most exceptional places, including state parks, natural areas, game lands and other key places. We approach land protection in a deliberate and strategic way, using data, research and science to help identify important lands, based on their ecological significance and conservation value. With this approach and other conservation considerations, we prioritize land in our region that is in need of protection, such as wildlife habitats, wetlands, forests, waterways and farmland.
Our land protection efforts date back to our first major land conservation project occurring in the mid-1940s when we protected 1,000 acres of the Slippery Rock gorge and historic gristmill in Lawrence County. Today, hikers know this area as McConnells Mill State Park. This land protection effort completed decades ago today allows thousands of outdoor enthusiasts to experience the sandstone boulders and tall hemlocks along the trails above Slippery Rock Creek, and other recreational opportunities at the park. McConnells Mill was the first of 10 state parks that we’ve helped to establish.
Over the decades since and property by property, we protected more than 257,000 acres of land for millions of people to now freely use for hiking, exploring, hunting, biking or fishing. Much of the land protected by us has been conveyed as public land for the state park, federal and state forest or state game land systems. Today, we continue to protect important land that becomes part of the public lands we all can enjoy.
We’ve worked to protect hundreds of acres of land supporting our region’s key waterways, such as the Clarion River, French Creek, Allegheny River, Juniata River and West Branch Sinnemahoning Creek. Land protection work also safeguards the habitats of hundreds of rare and endangered species, and native species, that call our region's waterways home.
All of our land protection of some of the region’s most significant natural areas has occurred thanks to collaboration among government agencies, landowners, nonprofit organizations, foundations, WPC members and other groups. Highlights of some of our work include:
- Protected land in the French Creek watershed, a natural waterway that has the highest level of aquatic biodiversity of any stream of its size in Pennsylvania and any state to the northeast, since 1969.
- Worked to help restore the Clarion River beginning in 1978. To date, we protected more than 13,000 acres of land along the Clarion River corridor.
- Protected more than 83,000 acres of the Laurel Highlands’ rivers, forestlands, wild areas and scenic ridges since 1951.
- Protected land to establish 11 Pennsylvania state parks: Clear Creek, Cook Forest, Erie Bluffs, Laurel Ridge, Laurel Hill, McConnells Mill, Moraine, Ohiopyle, Oil Creek and Raccoon Creek.
- Conserved land in the 1970s that created the first leg of the Great Allegheny Passage and continue to protect land along the "GAP" today.
- Worked in the Allegheny River Islands Wilderness, a component of Allegheny National Forest, for decades. Additionally, we’ve protected approximately 20,000 acres of shoreline, floodplain, valley slope and tributary watersheds of the Allegheny River.
- Conserved more than 11,000 acres along Laurel Ridge that were added to Laurel Ridge State Park and helped establish the scenic 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.
- Established the now 5,100-acre Bear Run Nature Reserve from Edgar Kaufmann jr.’s gift to WPC when he entrusted Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and its surrounding 1,543 acres in 1963.
- Protected and currently own 13,000 acres of wild areas, reserves and natural areas for recreation and nature watching.
These projects are all examples of the Conservancy's work and how land protection benefits our region. And, how everyone can freely enjoy nature because of the generosity of our members, partners and landowners who continue to help us protect the most significant natural areas in Western Pennsylvania.
Why It Matters
Imagine our region without healthy forests, open spaces, clean water and places to walk, hike, watch wildlife, fish and hunt in nature. It’s difficult to conceive. That is why we protect land, because these places and others are so important to ensuring the health, natural quality and livability of our region. Land protection saves the places you care about, so that the same parks and forests you grew up exploring can also be shared with your children – helping the next generation discover nature.
Western Pennsylvania is fortunate to have miles of rivers, lakes and streams that contain fresh water and host a variety of aquatic life. Land protection safeguards our region’s key waterways. We’ve worked to protect land near and along many rivers, streams and creeks, including the Clarion River, French Creek, Allegheny River, Juniata River and West Branch Sinnemahoning Creek. These waterways not only host wildlife habitats, they are important drinking water sources for local communities. And protecting land near them helps to clean, cool and restore these essential fresh water sources.
Protecting land is more critical than ever, especially with the ongoing challenges of energy development, habitat loss for native, rare and endangered plants and animals, poorly planned development and climate change. Also, our waterways face a variety of different threats, such as pollution and eroding streambanks. Our land protection work also safeguards local farmland and helps farmers reuse their land. This is important to do because conservation helps sustain Pennsylvania’s diminishing farmlands and farming heritage.
We are also restoring places that we’ve protected and currently own, 45 properties totaling more than 13,000 acres. We work to keep these areas natural, healthy and freely available for the public to use for recreation and nature watching. As an accredited land trust since 2012 with the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy demonstrates ethical standards and excellence in all our operations.
- WPC Dedicates New Trail in Honor of Former President and Board Chairman, Conservationist Joshua C. Whetzel, Jr.
- WPC Expands its Sideling Hill Creek Conservation Area by 100 Acres
- Local Nature Writer, Family Donate Conservation Easement on 648 Acres to WPC on Earth Day
- WPC Announces Farmland Access Initiative and Seeks Proposals
- First Conservation Easement Donation in Cameron County on 110 Acres
- WPC Expands Toms Run Nature Reserve to 369 acres
- Visit Our Properties
Our land protection team works closely with landowners and communities across the region to protect land. In this section, we will share information about recent land protections and highlight other aspects of our work, including new volunteer opportunities or landowner profiles. The Conservancy’s land conservation program has offices in Pittsburgh, Ridgway, Franklin and Ligonier. Contact us at 412-288-2777 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Throughout the year, there are several ways you can get involved in our land conservation work! Whether through volunteering to remove invasives along trails or helping with office or clerical work, you will make a difference.
- Explore the 46 Conservancy-owned properties totaling more than 13,000 acres.
- Volunteers are always needed to help care for our properties.
- Become a land conservation intern.
- Landowners can protect land via a conservation easement.
- Become a member of WPC and support our land conservation work across the region.
We are always in need of people to help care for our properties. Also, we are seeking landowners who want to protect their land. If you’ve hiked or fished at a WPC-owned property, please share your experience with us on social media. Also, we encourage any landowner interested in protecting their land to contact us, as there are a number of conservation options for landowners to consider.