WPC Protects Large Forested Area in the Laurel Highlands

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) today announced the permanent protection of hundreds of forested acres in the Laurel Highlands along two miles of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).

Today’s acquisition of a 329-acre tract of land in Black Township, Somerset County, is one of five properties conserved in recent years along the GAP and added to WPC’s now 609-acre Casselman River Conservation Area.

According to the Allegheny Trail Alliance, there are approximately one million visits to the trail annually for recreational purposes. Trail users will pass directly through this scenic protected area that hosts forested slopes and marshes.

Beyond its scenic and recreational value, the property includes ecologically important habitat, such as floodplain forests and more than one mile of vegetated frontage along the Casselman River. This section of the Casselman River valley hosts several rare plant species and the property is also located in the vicinity of known endangered and threatened bat species that forage and roost in forest and river edge habitats. The property also protects water quality for the river, as the forests and wetlands are vital for filtering and storing water.

This property is open to the public for fishing, hiking and other forms of low-impact recreation.

The Family of B. Kenneth Simon provided the lead funding for the purchase of this property, with additional funding provided through the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation and public sources.

“The Great Allegheny Passage is one of the extraordinary outdoor recreation amenities in our region,” said Thomas D. Saunders, president and CEO of WPC. “It’s crucial to protect the beautiful forested and river views along it – the uninterrupted views of the Pennsylvania landscape, the expansive forest, the sense of some degree of wilderness – are all part of the experience of getting out on the GAP trail.”

The Conservancy has a long history of land protection in the Laurel Highlands, with more than 83,300 acres protected to date since 1951.

Article by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.