Venango Township, Pa. – Nov. 4, 2019–The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced today the permanent protection of 390 acres in Erie County that have been added to the Conservancy’s West Branch French Creek Conservation Area, expanding the natural area to nearly 1,000 acres.

WPC Expands its West Branch French Creek Conservation Area by 390 Acres_ West Branch of French Creek.These newly protected acres are located within the 1,250-square mile French Creek watershed on two properties in Venango Township, Pa. French Creek flows from its headwaters in Chautauqua County, N.Y. to its confluence with the Allegheny River in Franklin, Pa. French Creek is the most biologically diverse stream of its size in Pennsylvania or any state in the Northeastern United States due to the amount of fish and freshwater mussel species.

The Conservancy’s West Branch French Creek Conservation Area now protects six miles of forested land along the West Branch French Creek, a major tributary to French Creek and a half mile of frontage on Alder Brook, a wetland and feeder stream to the creek. Forested buffers along rivers and streams help to regulate water temperature, improve aquatic habitat and overall water quality.

In addition to important stream frontage, these acres expand public access on the conservation area for hunting, fishing, hiking, nature study, and bird and wildlife watching. The Conservancy plans to install additional signage and parking in the future.

“French Creek and protecting properties within its watershed continue to be of great conservation importance to the Conservancy, not only to preserve land and this important waterway for rare, endangered and common species, but to provide expanded opportunities for the public to enjoy and explore,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy.

These properties were acquired with funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and a family’s gift in memory of their son and brother, Brad Barnes. Barnes, who lived in the area, was dedicated to conservation and to protecting endangered plants and animals. His family has conserved several ecologically significant WPC-protected properties in the French Creek watershed in his memory. Funding was also provided through the estate of Helen B. Katz and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.

The Conservancy has protected more than 5,500 acres within the French Creek watershed, starting with the Wattsburg Fen Natural Area in 1969. French Creek and its tributaries provide habitat for five species of federally endangered and threatened freshwater mussels and other mussel species, as well as numerous fish species of greatest conservation need in Pennsylvania.


About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy:
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) enhances the region by protecting and restoring exceptional places. A private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, WPC has helped to establish 11 state parks, conserved more than a quarter million acres of natural lands and protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams. The Conservancy owns and operates Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, now on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, WPC enriches our region’s cities and towns through 132 community gardens and other green spaces that are planted with the help of more than 11,000 volunteers. The work of WPC is accomplished through the support of more than 9,000 members. For more information, visit or

Media Contact:
Carmen Bray
Director of Communications