The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced the permanent protection of 410 acres of steep forested slopes and riparian forest in Somerset County that safeguards water quality and wildlife habitat along Clear Run Creek, a tributary to Laurel Hill Creek. The Jefferson Township property was immediately conveyed to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to become an addition to Forbes State Forest. The large forested property is adjacent to the forest and in the viewshed of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, a 70.5-mile continuous footpath stretching along Laurel Ridge.
Clear Run Creek, a designated high-quality cold water stream by the PA Fish and Boat Commission, is stocked with trout and known to support natural trout production, including for the eastern brook trout. The property, which protects the scenic views along the southern side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, contains open areas managed for golden-winged warbler habitat. Also, the protection of this land ensures habitat connectivity, an important consideration to ensure that plant and animal species have pathways, through connected habitats and landscapes, to move to more temperate and tolerable environments as the climate changes.
“This is a beautiful property that has so many conservation benefits,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “We’re glad to add another property to Forbes State Forest. So many people enjoy that state forest and it’s one of the spectacular assets of our region.”
Conservation of this forestland was made possible thanks to grants from the DCNR Bureau of State Forestry (Keystone Fund), Richard King Mellon Foundation, Babcock Charitable Trust, and the Hillman Foundation.
Since the 1960s, the Conservancy has protected more than 80,000 acres of open space in the Laurel Highlands, most of it turned over to the state to establish and manage parks, game lands and wild areas. For example, the Conservancy acquired land in 1965 that helped to establish Laurel Ridge State Park for the primary purpose of creating the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.
Post adapted from a release by Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.