Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

2011 Land Conservation Accomplishments

In 2011, the Conservancy protected land from Bedford County’s Evitts Mountain near the Maryland border to the Lake Erie shoreline, totaling 10 conserved properties and more than 2,900 acres.

Hardwood Trails, Bedford County
Hardwood Trails, Bedford County

The Conservancy protected more than 1,700 acres of forestland on the slopes of Evitts Mountain in Bedford County. The property will become part of Buchanan State Forest. This acquisition, called Hardwood Trails, protects the magnificent mountain views that can be seen from Route 220 while traveling between Bedford, Pa. and Cumberland, Md. The streams on the property flow into Lake Koon and Lake Gordon, which are drinking water reservoirs for the City of Cumberland. Protection of the property will help to ensure high quality water for these reservoirs.

Closer to Pittsburgh, WPC used the Colcom Revolving Fund for Local Land Trusts to help Friends of the Riverfront secure an Aspinwall property for use as a park and future trail connection. The $500,000 bridge loan helped this nonprofit group purchase the Aspinwall Marina, for $2.3 million. The bridge loan kept the purchase on schedule while organizers continued to raise the remaining funds needed. Friends of the Riverfront repaid the loan in December of 2011.

Randall Reserve forestland, Westmoreland County
Randall Reserve forestland, Westmoreland County

The Conservancy permanently protected two properties along French Creek. WPC acquired a working forest conservation easement on 399 acres of forestland in French Creek Township, Venango County. The forest will continue to be harvested in a sustainable manner, supporting the local economy. The property includes tributaries to and frontage on French Creek, and a beautiful waterfall. WPC also purchased 33 acres with over 2,000 feet of frontage along French Creek in LeBoeuf Township, Erie County. French Creek has the highest level of aquatic biodiversity of any stream of its size in the northeastern United States.

WPC also added a key property to the 3,400-acre Roderick Wildlife Reserve, one of the largest sections of undeveloped land along Lake Erie. This 82-acre property includes Raccoon Creek, forested wetlands and important habitat for migrating songbirds. The property is open to the public and is home to plant and animal species uncommon in Pennsylvania. The Conservancy also continued restoration work on a previously protected property along the West Branch of French Creek in Erie County. WPC restored the natural floodplain forest by planting native white oak, red oak, red maple and serviceberry trees, as well as gray dogwood and winterberry holly in areas previously cleared for agricultural development.

This red spotted newt was photographed
by a WPC scientist while conducting a
survey near French Creek.
This red spotted newt was photographed by a WPC scientist while conducting a survey near French Creek.

WPC continued its longstanding land conservation efforts in the Ligonier Valley, with six additional properties — all located within the Loyalhanna Creek watershed — protected during 2011.

More than 272 acres of Donegal Township forestland was conserved under a state-funded easement that provided operating support for Randall Reserve, the nonprofit organization that owns it. It will continue to be managed as a public natural area. A 55-acre property owned by the Ligonier Camp and Conference Center in Ligonier Township was also permanently protected through a conservation easement.

WPC purchased a 36-acre property that includes more than 2,000 feet of stream bank along Loyalhanna Creek and, after planting trees and shrubs to buffer the creek, sold the property to a private buyer subject to a conservation easement. Two additional Ligonier properties were protected by acquiring agricultural easements totaling 183 acres, which will ensure that the future use of the properties will be limited to agriculture. The Conservancy also purchased 3.9 acres in the floodplain of Loyalhanna Creek to add to the network of conserved land within the Route 30 corridor. Including these 2011 projects, WPC has conserved more than 25,000 acres in the Ligonier Valley since 1979.

Science Supports Conservation Outcomes

One of the six properties conserved in the
Loylhanna Creek watershed, Westmoreland County.
One of the six properties conserved in the Loylhanna Creek watershed, Westmoreland County.

In 2011, WPC scientists identified the Allegheny Front as one of the Conservancy’s top conservation priorities. The mountainous region spans 160 miles, from the Maryland border to Williamsport, Pa. As one of the highest and broadest ridges in Pennsylvania, it serves as a connecting corridor for biodiversity, including migrating birds such as the golden eagle. WPC land conservation specialists identified important patches of forest in this region to conserve and protect.

Last year, WPC scientists updated inventories for Delaware, Pike and Butler counties. The inventories are available to the public and help to inform communities about the types of plant and animal species in their county. Scientists updated 971 existing records of rare animals and plants and documented 848 new locations of rare animals and plants during 2011.

Conservation Science and Land Protection 2009 – 2011 Strategic Plan Accomplishments

  • • 25 properties were protected
  • • 38 volunteer stewardship workdays were completed on WPC properties
  • • 734 field surveys were performed by science staff