More wildlife habitat and scenic views in the Laurel Highlands along the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail will remain forever intact thanks to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s permanent protection of 50 acres in Black Township, Somerset County.

The steep northern hardwood forested slopes contain a number of springs, streams and waterfalls that are visible from the GAP before flowing into the 56-mile Casselman River, a major tributary to the Youghiogheny River and a conservation priority for WPC to help preserve the river’s water quality and trout habitat.

The land is protected through a conservation easement, which is a legal agreement with the property owner that restricts future subdivision and development on the land and keeps the land in private ownership.

This protection is a continuation of efforts by the Conservancy and its partners along the GAP and Casselman River that have resulted in more than 700 acres of protected land and the creation of the Conservancy’s Casselman River Conservation Area.

“It’s an honor to be able to protect the forests and views along the Great Allegheny Passage and the Casselman River,” says Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “This property borders the GAP for almost 4,000 feet and protects wonderful views from the trail near Rockwood.”

The Conservancy has an established history in and commitment to protecting land in the Laurel Highlands, with nearly 83,000 acres conserved since 1951. Keeping forestlands intact and watersheds healthy are also important for the local economy’s tourism industry, which attracts millions of visitors and outdoor enthusiasts to the region each year.

The Somerset County Recreation and Trails Association (SCRTA) provided funding for this project from the Great Allegheny Passage Land Acquisition and Emergency Trail Maintenance Fund of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. The fund was established with a grant from the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation.