Shared by Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, March 28, 2024

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced today the donation of a conservation easement from The Conservation Fund on more than 19,800 acres of forestland along the Clarion River in Elk County and Kinzua Creek in McKean County.

This conservation project, called the Clarion Junction Conservation Easement, provides long-term protection of forested lands in Elk and McKean counties, while keeping them in private ownership and allowing public access. These lands include sweeping ridges and scenic hardwood forests of red and sugar maple, black cherry, yellow and black birch, red oak and eastern hemlock. There are forested riparian areas along the West Branch Clarion River, East Branch Clarion River, the main branch of the Clarion River, and many high-quality tributaries that support wild trout.

The easement protects the conservation values of property that is surrounded by and also an important connection between state forest lands, state game lands and the Allegheny National Forest. Along with the nearby public lands­­, these lands offer residents and visitors opportunities for fishing, hiking, hunting and wildlife watching in this natural and picturesque PA Wilds region that attracts thousands of tourists annually.

The Conservancy’s conservation easement will provide public access to this privately owned working forest, while restricting future development and ensuring the property’s conservation values are protected in perpetuity. The easement permits the continuation of sustainable forestry operations on the property. This forest provides a steady source of wood for the local forest product industry, including a papermill in downtown Johnsonburg. The Conservancy’s stewardship staff will be responsible for monitoring the property ensuring it remains in accordance with the easement provisions.

Protecting large acreage and providing connectivity to other nearby, large protected public lands is important for wildlife species’ survival, says Conservancy President and CEO Thomas Saunders.

“We appreciate The Conservation Fund’s donation of this important conservation easement that further protects open space and this large working forest, beautiful natural area and important habitat,” says Saunders. “We are glad to steward these streamside forestlands to ensure they remain thriving ecosystems for generations to come,” he adds.

Matt Marusiak, the Conservancy’s land protection manager in its Allegheny Regional Office in Ridgway, is very familiar with this forest. He lives and works near the lands in Elk County, and has frequently fished the local mountain streams.

“This forestland has long been managed well and provides great opportunities for hunting, fishing and hiking. The Conservancy’s role will ensure this community treasure will continue being open for public recreation and contributing to the local economy and quality of life,” says Marusiak.

Since the 1970s, the Conservancy has permanently protected thousands of acres of land across the region through conservation easements. For more information about conservation options to protect land, please contact the Conservancy at 412-288-2777 or [email protected].