Easement permits public use of the area, now known as Bentley Run Wetlands.

Photo provided by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced the permanent protection of 348 acres of forest and wetlands in Union Township, Erie County, through a conservation easement.

The conservation easement—purchased from 730 Texas Timberlands II, Ltd., a Texas limited partnership c/o GreenWood Resources, Inc.— restricts future subdivision development and timber harvesting on 222 acres of forest, streams and wetlands. Sustainable timber harvesting will continue on 126 acres of the property.

The conservation easement safeguards the forested riparian buffer around a portion of the Union City Reservoir and protects additional forestland in the French Creek watershed, a priority conservation region for the Conservancy due to the watershed’s variety and abundance of aquatic wildlife and rare plant and animal species.

In addition to the mature upland forest, the property provides a buffer for streams and rare wetland and fen plant communities, which host habitat for more than 20 species of concern in the state. A large beaver dam and meadow are also present.

The property also hosts rare glacier land forms, including an esker and several kames. Glacial kettle holes, which were formed by retreating glaciers and floodwaters, and a hemlock forest are also on the land that is designated a Natural Heritage Area in Erie County. Although the land will continue in private ownership, the property, Bentley Run Wetlands (link connects to a map of the area), is open to the public for hiking, wildlife watching, hunting and fishing, and is adjacent to State Game Land #102.

“Protecting the land and waters in the French Creek watershed continues to be of great importance to the Conservancy,” says Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “We’re pleased to work closely with the landowners and our regional partners to protect this stunning property’s rare species and natural communities.”

The protection of this property was made possible thanks to funding from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA Department of Community and Economic Development, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service North American Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, and the Union City Municipal Authority. Grant funding from the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Babcock Charitable Trust and Hillman Foundation also supported this project.

To date, the Conservancy has protected more than 5,600 acres within the 1,250-square-mile French Creek watershed, starting with the Wattsburg Fen Natural Area in 1969.

About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy:

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) enhances the region by protecting and restoring exceptional places. A private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, WPC has helped establish 11 state parks, conserved more than a quarter million acres of natural lands, protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams, and assessed thousands of wildlife species and their habitats. The Conservancy owns and operates Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, WPC enriches our region’s cities and towns through 130 community gardens and other green spaces that are planted with the help of more than 7,000 volunteers. The work of the Conservancy is accomplished through the support of more than 10,000 members. For more information, visit WaterLandLife.org or Fallingwater.org.