Native Americans once gazed across this region's blue mountain ridges and proclaimed them Allegheny — Algonquin for “endless.” Today, the Allegheny Highlands stand out as an exceptional conservation area.
In 2002, the Conservancy protected more than 9,000 acres on and around Warm Springs Mountain in the heart of the Allegheny Highlands. Headquartered in the village of Warm Springs, our Allegheny Highlands Program continues to protect special resources such as the Cowpasture River and Warm Springs Mountain Preserve.
Adjacent to the historic Homestead resort and George Washington National Forest, the preserve represents one of the largest and most ecologically significant private forests in the Central Appalachians, stitching together hundreds of thousands of acres of conservation lands to form an impressive wildlife corridor. This key preserve anchors and showcases our work to protect and restore the region’s special lands and waters.
With threats from climate impacts and energy development mounting, The Nature Conservancy works to conserve the Allegheny Higlands' mountain forests and streams not only for the myriad plants and wildlife they harbor, but also for the millions of people who depend on them for natural services ranging from outdoor recreation to drinking water.
- Invasive species
- Altered fire regimes
- Forest pests and pathogens
- Incompatible forestry
- Residential development
- Fraser’s marsh St. John’s wort
- Catawba rhododendron
- Flame azalea
- Migratory songbirds and raptors
- Black bear
- Timber rattlesnake
- Dragonflies, damselflies, and rare moths
- Montane pine and shale barrens
- High elevation wetlands
Our Conservation Strategy
Guided by science, the Conservancy works with a variety of partners to protect the forests, caves, rivers, and unique habitats of the Allegheny Highlands. Below are some of the ways we work:
- Land protection:
We purchase land or interests in land and accept donations of land or conservation easements from willing sellers and donors.
- Science-based conservation:
We developed a fire management plan for Warm Springs Mountain and work with partners through the Appalachian Fire Learning Network to promote best practices for the entire Allegheny Highlands landscape. Our avian monitoring program is a long-term study of landscape-scale response of avian communities to controlled burning. The project spans 18,000 acres of contiguous lands owned by the Conservancy and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Download the 2014 report.
- Ecological land management:
We work to control invasive plants such as garlic mustard at our Warm Springs Mountain Preserve. Our invasive species program is an example of how effective land management helps us accomplish conservation goals. Considered the second greatest threat to natural diversity, invasive species spread quickly, disrupt natural cycles, and crowd out native plants and animals.
- Education and outreach:
We foster a conservation ethic and appreciation for nature through education and outreach. The Conservancy works to encourage thoughtful land-use planning and is helping local communities identify development approaches that preserve local character, history, traditions, and, ultimately, the ecosystem itself. The public is invited to hike the Ingalls and Sandy Gap trails at Warm Springs Mountain Preserve.
- Public policy:
We committed at least $10,000 in private funds toward the Virginia Invasive Species Council, a new state initiative to combat invasive species, and we joined a coalition of public and private groups to launch Virginiaforever, a campaign to garner increased public support and state funding for conservation.
- Community-based conservation:
From our office in Warm Springs, Virginia, we work in close partnership with local communities, public-land managers and private landowners. Together we share an incredible opportunity to protect the health and beauty of the Allegheny Highlands.
Program Milestones and Achievements
- Acquired more than 9,000 acres of critical native forest on Warm Springs Mountain and currently fundraising to secure permanent protection.
- Science staff targeted a core 5,000-acre area for invasive species control.
- Opened community-based program office in the village of Warm Springs.
- Established Ingalls Overlook Trail and Sandy Gap Trail for hiking and nature study.
Allegheny Highlands Program
12181-A Courthouse Hill Road
Warm Springs, VA 24484
Phone: (540) 839-3599