One of West Virginia’s most spectacular nature recreation areas received a boost this week when Congress approved nearly $2,250,000 to acquire priority conservation land within the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The funding, approved Wednesday, March 11, from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, will be used to acquire, from willing sellers, property that has been identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for addition to the 15-year-old refuge. The refuge currently protects about 16,000 acres of the largest high-elevation valley in the East, valued for its excellent bird-watching and hiking opportunities.
"Canaan Valley supports the largest area of wetlands in all of the Central Appalachians, providing critical habitat for wildlife that is irreplaceable in West Virginia,” said U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan. “Senator Byrd’s leadership on this project will help us conserve that habitat and protect our watersheds, while continuing to offer tremendous recreational opportunities."
“The Canaan Valley’s unique beauty is becoming more and more widely recognized as it becomes a destination for those who want to enjoy West Virginia’s wild and wonderful outdoors,” said U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, champion of the appropriation.
“This funding will provide additional opportunities to assure that future generations can enjoy the valley’s scenic beauty, rich wildlife diversity, and outdoor recreational opportunities,” Byrd added.
The refuge benefits both people and nature, with more than 40 miles of hiking, biking and horse trails, as well as seasonal hunting opportunities. The refuge provides a home for rare species such as the Cheat Mountain salamander and the West Virginia northern flying squirrel. It is best known among conservationists as a home to many species, including balsam fir and nesting northern goshawks, that normally are found much further north.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), is the premier federal program for buying open space and creating parks, forests, wildlife habitat, and recreation areas across the country.
Conservation groups like The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund, working with state and federal partners, have been working to protect Canaan Valley for decades. These groups will assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in acquiring the properties from landowners who are willing sellers, said Rodney Bartgis, the West Virginia state director for the Conservancy.
“Canaan Valley is at the heart of the Central Appalachians, a globally significant ecoregion that has been identified as a top priority for the Conservancy,” Bartgis said. “We’re grateful to Sen. Byrd and Rep. Mollohan for their vision in supporting the continued protection of this resource.”
“The Conservation Fund applauds Senator Byrd and Representative Mollohan for their continued leadership and dedication to protecting the natural resources critical to the local economy,” said Reggie Hall, real estate associate for The Conservation Fund. “Even in uncertain economic times, conservation proves to be a sound investment that benefits future generations.”
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.
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