Pittsburgh, Pa. – December 18, 2023 – The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced today the permanent protection of 460 forested acres in Keating Township, McKean County. The Conservancy acquired the land from the Collins Pine Company, a sustainable forestry and wood products operator in the PA Wilds.
The Conservancy will own this property, now named the Babcock Family Nature Reserve, and manage it as a natural area open to the public for outdoor recreation that includes hiking, birding, hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. The preserve will also be used for research and nature study by local schools and universities.
The preserve honors the legacy of the Babcock family and their longstanding connection with the Conservancy and commitment to conservation. Family patriarch, Edward Vose Babcock, was one of the 10 founding members of the Conservancy under its former name, Greater Pittsburgh Parks Association, in 1932. He was also a lumber industrialist who served as Pittsburgh’s mayor from 1918 to 1922. Long after his passing in 1948, the Babcocks continued their support of the Conservancy with their first financial gift in 1976 assisting land protection efforts.
Through a generous gift in 2020 from the Babcock Charitable Trust, the family has financially supported 17 land acquisitions totaling 2,842 acres in nine Western Pennsylvania counties.
This forested property has significant conservation value and is located within the Ormsby Swamp Natural Heritage Area, which hosts a variety of habitat types and a wealth of rare species. Those important species, including two plant, four butterfly and six dragonfly species of conservation concern in Pennsylvania.
The site is also a large wetland complex comprised of upland forest, shrub thickets, open bog areas and several small ponds that form the headwaters of Little Black Brook, a tributary to Kinzua Creek. The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program’s McKean County Natural Heritage Inventory lists the Ormsby Swamp Natural Heritage Area as “Exceptional Significance” due to the variety of important habitats and rare species that exist.
“This is such an interesting and beautiful property and we are so glad we can permanently protect it. We are grateful to the Babcock family for their support of our land protection work and so glad this property can be a tribute to that generosity,” says Conservancy President and CEO Tom Saunders.
Although this area is open to the public, it has no trail access and visitors should use caution when navigating this uninhabited forested wetland. The Conservancy will make improvements in the near future to enhance parking availability and trail access. Visitors should also be aware that Collins Pine is permitted to continue conducting sustainable forestry operations and stewardship on some sections of the preserve.
In addition to funding from the Babcock Charitable Trust, this acquisition was made possible thanks to grants from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Recreation and Conservation’s Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, Hamer Foundation and Hillman Foundation. Funding was also provided by the estates of Helen B. Katz and Charles Romesburg through their bequests.
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 establish 11 state parks, conserved more than a quarter million acres of natural lands, protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams, and assessed thousands of wildlife species and their habitats. The Conservancy owns and operates Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, WPC enriches our region’s cities and towns through 130 community gardens and other green spaces and thousands of trees that are planted with the help of more than 7,000 volunteers. The work of the Conservancy is accomplished through the support of more than 10,000 members. For more information, visit WaterLandLife.org or Fallingwater.org.
Senior Director of Communications