This week the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced the protection of two properties totaling 205 acres in Dunbar Township, Fayette County that conserve forested ridges and headwater streams and expand both State Game Lands 51 and Ohiopyle State Park.

A 72-acre forested property with extensive stream frontage on Bruner Run, a headwater stream to the Youghiogheny River, has been conveyed to the Pennsylvania Game Commission to expand State Game Lands 51.

Protecting picturesque views high above of the Great Allegheny Passage and the Youghiogheny River, a 133-acre property is the Conservancy’s latest addition to Ohiopyle—a popular state park established in 1951 with the help of the Conservancy.

With its heavily forested slopes, this property extends a corridor of protected ridge while safeguarding the significant ecological values of the maple and oak hardwood forest. A tributary stream to the Youghiogheny River runs through the property. The Conservancy has conveyed this property to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of State Parks.

These properties expand recreation opportunities for hiking, hunting, bird watching, and fishing, while connecting to more than 37,000 acres of state public lands in the Laurel Highlands. Both are located within the Chestnut Ridge/Laurel Ridge Important Mammal Area, a priority area of protection for unusual mammals or those of special concern such as the Appalachian cottontail, Allegheny woodrat, northern river otter, and bobcat. Located within a Pennsylvania Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area, both properties have important habitat for forest interior nesting birds such as warblers and the Louisiana water thrush.

The Conservancy has focused significant land and water conservation efforts in the Laurel Highlands since the 1950s, and has protected more than 83,000 acres of the Laurel Highlands’ rivers, forestland, wild areas and scenic ridges. Many of these WPC-protected acres over the years are now public land, including 11,890 for Ohiopyle and 696 for State Game Lands 51.

“The Youghiogheny River, Great Allegheny Passage trail, and surrounding forested areas are conservation priorities for the Conservancy, so we are glad to be able to acquire these properties for Ohiopyle State Park and the nearby game land,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “These are key properties in this part of the Laurel Highlands that we are very happy to protect and open up to the public.”

The conservation of both properties was made possible with funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation. A partial donation from the landowner also supported the purchase of the property added to Ohiopyle. Funding through the Pennsylvania Game Commission and a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection assisted the property added to State Game Lands 51.

Learn more about the acquisition here.