Photo courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced the transfer of 532 acres of forestland along the Clarion National Wild and Scenic River near Ridgway in Elk County to the U.S. Department of Agriculture U.S. Forest Service to become a new addition to the Allegheny National Forest.

Permanently conserved by the Conservancy in 2012, this undeveloped forestland protects two miles of river frontage along the Clarion River, a major tributary to the Allegheny River and important recreation destination in the Pennsylvania Wilds.

These 532 acres protect the scenic quality of the corridor along the northern bank of the river and is viewable by boaters, as well as hikers and bicyclists along the popular Clarion–Little Toby Trail. Several rare aquatic invertebrate species have been documented in this section of the Clarion River and bald eagles, goshawks and timber rattlesnakes are among the wildlife that call these woods home.

The Conservancy worked closely with Seneca Resources Corporation, the exploration and production segment of National Fuel Gas Company that controls the oil, gas, and mineral right of the property, to obtain a surface use agreement, at no cost to the Conservancy. The agreement restricts oil and gas development on the surface of a portion of this land to protect the scenic viewshed along the Clarion River. With the transfer to ANF, this land will become part of the Clarion River Remote Recreation Area within the now 514,185-acre national forest.

Photo courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

“This property is part of our longstanding effort, dating back to the 1970s, to protect more than 13,000 acres of land along the Clarion River,” says Conservancy President and CEO Thomas Saunders. “This forestland near Ridgway has helped protect water quality and retain the intact forestland in this rural and beautiful part of our region.”

The Clarion River was named Pennsylvania’s 2019 River of the Year due to its wildlife and popularity for recreation. Because much of the land along the Clarion is protected from development, the river’s recovery is now considered a conservation success story involving many partnering organizations and agencies, to protect, restore and improve habitat in and along these waters.

ANF Forest Supervisor Jamie Davidson says this land makes for an important addition to ANF for a number of reasons. Since the property is completely surrounded by national forest lands, management will be more efficient with consolidate ownership. With the proximity to the Clarion River, Laurel Mill Trails and Ridgway Township’s Sandy Beach, these lands will enhance non-motorized recreation opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Established in 1923, ANF is Pennsylvania’s only national forest, includes land in Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren counties, and provides recreation, natural beauty, wood products, watershed protection and abundant wildlife habitats.

Photo courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

“I would like to thank the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for their willingness to convey this land to the USDA Forest Service. I also want to recognize Seneca Resources Corporation for their assistance in providing a surface use agreement to help protect and mitigate the risk to the scenic beauty and watershed of the Clarion National Wild and Scenic River. Acquiring this adjoining parcel allows us to care for these lands along the river as a contiguous whole, as part of the Allegheny National Forest to meet the needs of present and future generations. We would not have accomplished this without the collaboration of our partners,” adds Davidson.