On February 28, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) announced the permanent protection of 92 acres near Cambridge Springs in Crawford County along French Creek, one of the most important waterways in the northeastern United States for the diversity of fish and mussels living in it.

The property, which is now open to the public for hunting, hiking, birding, and wildlife watching, is located along Millers Station Road and U.S Route 6 and 19, and is adjacent to State Game Land #277. The area provides a forested riparian buffer on the main stem of French Creek, a natural waterway that has the highest level of aquatic biodiversity of any stream of its size in Pennsylvania. French Creek and its tributaries provide habitat for five species of federally endangered and threatened freshwater mussels and other mussel species, as well as numerous fish species in greatest need of conservation in Pennsylvania.

Protecting forested areas near streams is a high priority for conservation, according to WPC land protection manager Ann Sand. “Forested riparian corridors help regulate the temperature of rivers and streams, and create stream-side conditions that contribute to improved water quality and aquatic habitat,” said Sand.

The property is located northwest of the Erie National Wildlife Refuge, a Pennsylvania Audubon Society Important Bird Area where more than 236 bird species including bald eagle, sedge wren, and Northern harrier have been recorded. Although not part of the Important Bird Area, the property contributes to the ecological value of the region due to its close proximity, size, and variety of habitats.

The property was purchased with funds from the estate of Helen B. Katz. Through a partnership with Ducks Unlimited, a $100,000 grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act also assisted the purchase. This federal funding source is used for wetland habitat conservation throughout North America.

Since 1969, WPC has protected approximately 5,000 acres within the French Creek Watershed.