The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced on October 8, 2020 the permanent protection of a 35-acre wetland and forested area within the French Creek watershed in Waterford Township, Erie County.

This newly protected property contains wetlands and forested buffers along two streams that flow into Lake LeBoeuf, one of eight natural glacial lakes in northwest Pennsylvania. Lake LeBoeuf is one of several lakes in the French Creek watershed.

French Creek provides habitat for five species of federally endangered and threatened freshwater mussels and other mussel species, as well as numerous fish species of greatest conservation need in Pennsylvania.

Located within the Lake LeBoeuf Natural Heritage Area, the property hosts habitats of several plant species of concern. The area is designated as a natural heritage area because the land supports habitat for rare plants and species biodiversity.

The forested stream edges help regulate stream temperatures, and contribute to improved water quality and aquatic habitat.

“Protecting land in the French Creek watershed is one of the priorities of the Conservancy. Properties like this one, that have great conservation importance due to their impact on French Creek and its tributaries, support the biodiversity of the watershed,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy.

The Conservancy will own this property, now named LeBoeuf Wetlands Conservation Area, and manage it as a natural area open to the public for outdoor recreation including hiking, birding, wildlife watching, research and nature study. Although this area is open to the public, it has no trail access and visitors should use caution navigating this uninhabited forested wetland. From Old State Road, a small dirt road, located across from a cemetery, provides access to this area.

Conservation of this forested wetland was made possible thanks to grants from the  Richard King Mellon Foundation. Funding was also provided by private donors and the estate of Helen B. Katz.

To date, the Conservancy has protected more than 5,500 acres within the French Creek watershed, starting with the Wattsburg Fen Natural Area in 1969.