American Rivers and the Environmental Protection Agency today announced that a forest protection and restoration effort in Randolph County, WV will receive a $300,000 grant, as part of a comprehensive initiative to protect and restore rivers in the Potomac Highlands region.
The grant will help The Nature Conservancy implement the Gandy Ranch Project – an effort to protect a 455-acre landscape connector between the Laurel Fork Wilderness Area and the Seneca Rocks/Spruce Knob Recreation Area of Monongahela National Forest. The project will restore and reconnect red spruce/northern hardwood forests to expand the habitat of the federally protected West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel and Cheat Mountain Salamander. Partners include The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative, the US Forest Service, and the Mountain Institute.
“This grant allows American Rivers to not only have a tremendous impact on the health of the region’s rivers and clean water, but also on economic prosperity and quality of life,” said Chris Williams, Senior Vice President for Conservation at American Rivers. “We congratulate The Nature Conservancy and partners on their hard work and innovative ideas, and we look forward to seeing the many benefits to clean water and people. We hope this project inspires other communities and can be replicated across the region and the nation.”
This project involves protecting roughly 1.25 miles of Gandy Creek and its headwater tributaries by fencing out cattle, replanting red spruce and northern hardwood forest in the watershed, eliminating non-native invasive species, stabilizing eroding banks and adding fish habitat structures. Downstream, Gandy Creek is a popular trout fishing stream. The landowner, Steve Callen, has agreed to permanently protect the property through the use of a conservation easement, a legal agreement that restricts future use.
“Through the foresight of this landowner and the support of American Rivers, the EPA and our partners, we’re protecting an important freshwater resource and the home fishing waters for several generations of West Virginians who live in this area,” said Rodney Bartgis, state director for the Conservancy’s West Virginia program. “We’re also providing habitat for a number of iconic Central Appalachian species.”
American Rivers is implementing the EPA grant program that awards local, innovative solutions to benefit clean water and local economies. A total of $1,373,119 is being awarded to six projects to protect rivers and clean water in the Potomac Highlands region of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The Highlands region is the headwaters of the Potomac River, which flows through the nation’s capital. The region’s forests and streams provide rich habitat for fish, wildlife, and plants, as well as an increasingly popular recreation and tourism destination. Many of the region’s streams have been damaged by harmful logging, mining, dams, and other development, but opportunities abound for river restoration and revitalization.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.