Photo courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced the permanent protection of two forested properties with stream frontage in Erie County—a 40-acre property in Union Township and 70 acres in Venango Township. The lands will become new additions to two of the Conservancy’s existing nature preserves in the biodiverse French Creek watershed.

The Union Township property is a mix of forest and wetlands, and offers 635 feet of forested riparian buffer along South Branch French Creek. This property will become part of the now 233-acre South Branch French Creek Conservation Area, which opened to the public in 2018. It features a diverse mix of habitats including forest, creek frontage, wetlands, vernal pools and former agricultural fields. The extensive forest features hard maple, soft maple, beech, cherry and large, old-growth hemlock.

With the conservation of the 70-acre property, the Conservancy will own and manage nearly three miles of stream frontage along the West Branch French Creek, a tributary to French Creek that flows into Erie County from New York. The property has been added to the West Branch French Creek Conservation Area, bringing it to more than 1,000 acres of contiguous forests, wetlands and streams.

Both conservation areas are owned and managed by the Conservancy and are open for free to the public for hiking, birding, wildlife watching, exploring, hunting and fishing.

“Protecting French Creek and its tributaries continues to be of great conservation importance to the Conservancy,” says Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “So, we’re pleased to have the opportunity to protect these properties that create larger contiguous protected areas along the South Branch and West Branch of French Creek.”

French Creek, Pennsylvania’s 2022 River of the Year, is known as the most biologically diverse stream of its size in Pennsylvania or any state in the northeastern United States, making its protection all the more important. To date, the Conservancy has protected more than 5,600 acres within the 1,250-square-mile French Creek watershed, starting with the Wattsburg Fen Natural Area in 1969.

These properties were acquired with funding from private donors, the Foundation for PA Watersheds and through the estate of Helen B. Katz.