Virginia

Allegheny Highlands Program

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.

Threats

  • Invasive species
  • Altered fire regimes
  • Forest pests and pathogens 
  • Incompatible forestry
  • Residential development

Plants

  • Fraser’s marsh St. John’s wort
  • Bunchberry
  • Catawba rhododendron
  • Flame azalea

Animals

  • Migratory songbirds and raptors
  • Black bear
  • Timber rattlesnake
  • Dragonflies, damselflies, and rare moths

Natural Communities

  • Montane pine and shale barrens
  • High elevation wetlandsPotts Creek Shale Barren Warm Springs Mountain
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 from willing sellers and accept donations of land or conservation easements.
  • Science-based conservation:
    Having developed a fire management plan for Warm Springs Mountain, we work with partners through the Appalachian Fire Learning Network to promote best practices for the entire Allegheny Highlands landscape. We established and continue to lead monitoring programs on thousands of acres owned by the Conservancy and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, including studies of how forest habitat responds to controlled burning.
  • Ecological land management:
    Our fire teams are working to restore lost elements of Appalachian forest diversity such as open-canopy woodlands. Working to control invasive plants is another example of how effective land management helps us accomplish conservation goals.
  • 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.
  • Public policy:
    We work in conjunction with state and federal partners to further our collective understanding of controlled burning practices; collaborate with other organizations in support of the Cowpasture River Partnership; and advocate for additional public funding for land conservation, forest management and restoration, and water-quality improvement.
  • Community-based conservation:
    From our office in Hot 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
  • Targeted a core 5,000-acre area for invasive species control
  • Opened a community-based program office, now based in Hot Springs
  • Created Ingalls Overlook, Sandy Gap and Bear Loop trails for hiking and nature study
Contact Information 

Jean Lorber
Allegheny Highlands Program
420 Forestry Road
Hot Springs, VA 24445
Phone: (540) 839-3599

Download the Allegheny Highlands Program Fact Sheet (pdf)

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