On December 10, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced more than $1.5 million in Central Appalachia Habitat Stewardship Program grants to restore forest and freshwater habitat in central Appalachia, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The grants will generate more than $1.8 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $3.4 million. There were six projects funded in Pennsylvania totaling $965,152 in grants.

The announcement was made in Petersburg, Huntingdon County with Pennsylvania’s official amphibian present—the eastern hellbender.

The grants were awarded through NFWF’s Central Appalachia Habitat Stewardship Program, which receives funding from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA’s Forest Service, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the American Forest Foundation, Shell Oil Company, and in western Pennsylvania, the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

“Collectively, the eleven grants we announce today will improve habitat for some of the region’s most iconic species, including eastern brook trout, hellbender and wood thrush,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “This work is possible through an impressive partnership of public and private sector organizations who all are committed to protecting and restoring this region’s rich natural heritage.”

“Through our collaboration with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, we are able to support environmental organizations that do meaningful work in our communities to help fish and wildlife throughout the region,” said Shell Appalachia general manager Tonya Williams. “It’s work that leads to sustainable, long-lasting improvements in the communities near our business.”

Central Appalachia boasts some of the most biologically diverse, temperate deciduous forests in the United States.

“When we are making management decisions to keep our forests and landscapes resilient and rich with a diversity of species, it’s important to have good science,” Pennsylvania DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “We appreciate these NFWF grants to our partners in Pennsylvania as we work together toward that goal.”

The projects announced today will enable more than 400 different landowners to improve management on more than 3,100 acres of public and private forests. This work will benefit declining populations of forest birds, including the golden-winged warbler, wood thrush and cerulean warbler.

“Through our partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, we are able to maximize resources to achieve our shared goal of improving forest conditions to support wildlife habitat on state and private lands,” said Bob Lueckel, acting eastern regional forester, USDA Forest Service. “The Central Appalachia Habitat Stewardship program illustrates how a robust partnership program with shared interests produces results that one entity alone could not achieve. We look forward to future collaboration with NFWF and the positive outcomes from our working together to restore and sustain healthy forests.”

The rivers and streams of the Appalachian region also are globally important habitat for unique and diverse wildlife populations, including brook trout, salamanders and a wide variety of freshwater mussels.

Projects funded will restore 10 miles of streamside forest, open up more than 25 miles of upstream habitat to fish, reintroduce 100,000 freshwater mussels to the Clinch River watershed, and create nesting habitat for the giant salamander, eastern hellbender.

“Healthy and resilient forests, rivers, and streams not only benefit wildlife. They also provide clean air and water, outdoor recreation, and sustainable landscapes to keep working lands working,” said Wendi Weber, North-Atlantic-Appalachian regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We are proud to be a partner in this collaborative effort to keep central Appalachia thriving well into the future.”

Pennsylvania Grants

Restoring Large Forest Blocks in State Parks for Key Bird Species in the Laurel Highlands, Indiana University of Pennsylvania Research Institute: Grant Amount: $199,896; Matching Funds: $214,282; Project Total: $414,178: Restore multiple forest age classes and habitat complexity for key bird species in large forest blocks in two state parks in the Laurel Highlands of south central Pennsylvania, which serve as anchors in a network of forested lands in the region. Project will write comprehensive forest management plans for more than 33,000 acres of forest and implement habitat management practices that benefit golden-winged warbler, cerulean warbler and wood thrush while also monitoring population responses.

Assessing Eastern Brook Trout Patches to Determine Future Actions that Improve Connectivity, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy: Grant Amount: $186,863; Matching Funds: $213,964; Project Total: $400,827: Assess population status and habitat condition within previously identified eastern brook population patches in the Mid-Upper Allegheny River and Pennsylvania Wilds focal geographies to determine the most appropriate restoration actions to improve aquatic connectivity. Project will assess at least five patches by completing 100 electrofishing surveys, reconnect at least two priority patches through culvert replacement and restore 1.5 miles of forested riparian buffer to reduce sedimentation.

Restoring Dynamic Forest Structure to Improve Wildlife Habitat for Birds in the Pennsylvania Wilds, American Bird Conservancy: Grant Amount: $175,000; Matching Funds:$200,000; Project Total: $375,000: Improve forest management planning and habitat management within the Pennsylvania Wilds region where forest health is limited by a lack of age class diversity and structural complexity. Project will deploy both timber harvests and non-commercial methods to create or enhance 450 acres of young forest habitat, 500 acres of mature forest habitat and 400 acres of late successional habitat to support the entire reproductive cycle of golden- winged warbler, cerulean warbler, and wood thrush.

Advancing Conservation-Based Estate Planning with Private Forest Landowners, The Pennsylvania State University: Grant Amount: $79,987; Matching Funds:  $79,987; Project Total: $159,974: Advance conservation-based estate planning through a targeted workshop series to increase awareness and implementation of evolving legal and financial tools to achieve conservation-based estate planning in Pennsylvania. Project will implement outreach to estate planning attorneys, financial planners and consulting foresters. At least 350 professionals will use newly established best practices for conservation-based estate planning.

Implementing a Landscape-Scale Approach to Managing Private Forestlands for Birds and Resilience, National Audubon Society: Grant Amount: $183,419; Matching Funds: $188, 433; Project Total: $371,852: Implement strategic, landscape-scale forest conservation to benefit forest birds on private lands in Pennsylvania through financial incentives provided by the American Forest Foundation’s Family Forest Carbon Program. Project will restore 900 acres of mature forest habitat for wood thrush, 225 acres of late successional forest habitat for cerulean warblers and enroll 20 landowners in habitat management on their lands that will also facilitate carbon sequestration.

Testing a Methodology for Monitoring Eastern Brook Trout Restoration Response in the Cross Fork Watershed, Trout Unlimited: Grant Amount: $139,987; Matching Funds: $140, 000; Project Total: $279,987 Develop a methodology and conduct eastern brook trout population response monitoring in the Cross Fork Creek watershed, the largest drainage in the Kettle Creek watershed in Pennsylvania. The methodology will be suitable for replication range-wide. Project will replace one culvert, opening 8.5 miles of previously inaccessible stream habitat and improve 1,500 feet of dirt and gravel road to reduce sedimentation and improve water quality, and then will monitor brook trout population response.