A Message from the President

Thomas D. Saunders

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is in the midst of an important new ecological monitoring project associated with shale gas extraction. WPC has identified 80 of the most ecologically significant areas across the state, focusing on important habitats or areas that support rare species. The areas have been chosen based on their conservation significance and their potential for shale gas extraction at or near those locations. The project will collect baseline data on stream quality and habitats at these sites, so that information is known before the various development aspects of shale gas extraction begin at those locations.

This issue of Conserve will explore this project, which is funded by a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. This project is important because a large portion of Pennsylvania is underlain by the Marcellus and Utica shale formations – the sources of potentially billions of dollars in natural gas. This portion of the state is also home to critical habitat for a variety of plants and animals, and streams whose water quality is important.

Also in this issue, we describe some of the Conservancy’s ongoing projects, such as WPC’s land conservation work in Ligonier Valley. The Conservancy recently reached an important milestone when it permanently protected its 10,000th acre in the Ligonier Valley. A story in this issue of Conserve will explore how this was accomplished through conservation easements.

This edition will detail how Conservancy staff members, assisted by volunteers, organizational partners and landowners, are planting 20,000 native trees and shrubs along more than six miles of stream bank around Western Pennsylvania.

This quarter, we also explore WPC’s participation in a reforestation effort on former strip mine land on the Conservancy’s Bennett Branch Forest property in Elk County. WPC and partners not only planted 20,000 mixed hardwoods at the site, but also launched a progeny testing site for a batch of potentially blight-resistant chestnut seedlings.

Another article will describe a program’s effort to connect WPC scientists to students and engage children in hands-on activities in Conservancy-created green spaces.

This issue of Conserve illustrates how the Conservancy’s projects, programs and work protect and enhance our extraordinary region in so many ways. We appreciate the support and partnership of so very many individuals, organizations and foundations in our region that allow us to work on all these efforts that are so exciting to us at WPC.

Thomas D. Saunders
Thomas Saunders
President and CEO