Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced on October 30, 2020 the purchase of a conservation easement to permanently protect and limit development on a 173-acre forested property in Ligonier Township, Westmoreland County.

The property provides more than a half mile of riparian frontage along Mill Creek, a tributary to Loyalhanna Creek, and an equal amount of buffer along a feeder stream to Mill Creek. Mill Creek is a cold-water fishery that supports natural trout reproduction, including Eastern brook trout habitat, and is stocked for trout fishing by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. While the majority of the property will remain in private ownership, 20 acres are available for public access to the creek and Laurel Highlands Trout Trail for walking, fishing and exploring.

This property hosts several wetlands, important ecosystem components that store rainwater, ultimately helping to reduce runoff and flooding. The forested land provides habitat for a variety of wildlife and approximately 60 acres will continue to be used for farming.

A conservation easement is a land protection option available to landowners who want to continue to own their property or sell it to others in the future, while preserving its conservation values forever, says Conservancy President and CEO Thomas Saunders. A conservation easement is a recorded legal agreement that restricts future subdivision and development on land.

“For decades, we’ve worked closely with the local community and landowners in the Ligonier Valley to employ a variety of conservation techniques that protect the scenic and ecological values of the Ligonier Valley landscape,” says Saunders. “The protection of this forested area along Mill Creek with a perpetual conservation easement will safeguard scenic views, while protecting the forestland and creek, ultimately contributing to improved water quality for generations.”

Conservation of this land was made possible thanks to grants from Colcom Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation and Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation. Funding was also provided by the landowner and other donations made to support land conservation in the Ligonier Valley.

The Conservancy has permanently protected nearly 27,000 acres of land in the Ligonier Valley, of which more than 10,000 are through conservation easements.