"Protecting our Rural Environment"

Message from the President

Thomas D. Saunders

This issue of Conserve examines how the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy works with rural communities across our region. Western Pennsylvania’s rural areas host many of our magnificent natural resources and also contribute to the unique character of our region. Much of the Conservancy’s work, whether protecting land, conserving or restoring our rivers and streams, protecting our rare and threatened plants and animals, or beautifying our communities through plantings, is done in our rural areas and small towns across Western Pennsylvania.

The Conservancy has offices in six communities outside of Pittsburgh — Indiana, Ridgway, Hollidaysburg, Ligonier, Mill Run and Middletown — but works in many more. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has many partners in our rural areas, including landowners, farmers, community organizations and local governments, to help protect our rural environment.

Our land conservation program works with rural landowners to conserve their properties — in some cases acquiring properties for permanent protection and public use, and in other cases through acquiring conservation easements by donation or purchase. Conservation easements protect the properties permanently from development but leave them in the hands of the private owners and future buyers.

Our watershed conservation staff works with families to keep pollution out of local streams by assisting with improvements to farm properties that create environmental benefits, while the farms stay on in private ownership and production.

Our gardens and greenspace program works with local community organizations to beautify key locations in our rural communities — often entrance features, central locations or greenspaces in our smaller cities and towns. It is always impressive how hard local community organizations work to plant the gardens. The Conservancy’s small number of gardens staff work with a vast number of volunteers across the region.

Conservancy staff at Fallingwater work closely with residents of the area — using the house and its surroundings for a variety of volunteer, cultural and learning experiences, including programs for teachers and more than 5,000 schoolchildren from surrounding communities each year. And the Bear Run Nature Reserve is rooted in part in its agricultural history; the original Fallingwater owners, while Pittsburghers, had a gentleman’s farm at Bear Run, with buildings that still exist today.

I hope that you will enjoy this issue. I find our communities across the region, with their individual character and always interesting and unique history, to be an important part of what makes Western Pennsylvania a special region. We at the Conservancy consider it a privilege to be able to do land conservation, watershed protection and restoration, rare and threatened species habitat protection and beautification work in so many interesting rural communities across Western Pennsylvania.

Thomas D. Saunders
Thomas Saunders
President and CEO

2012 Members’ Day & Annual Meeting

This year's annual meeting will be held on May 5 at The Barn at Fallingwater.
Register online.