On November 4, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced the permanent protection of 390 acres in Erie County that have been added to the Conservancy’s West Branch French Creek Conservation Area, expanding the natural area to nearly 1,000 acres.

These newly protected acres are located within the 1,250-square mile French Creek watershed on two properties in Venango Township. French Creek flows from its headwaters in Chautauqua County, New York to its confluence with the Allegheny River in Franklin, Pennsylvania. French Creek is the most biologically diverse stream of its size in Pennsylvania or any state in the northeastern United States due to the amount of fish and freshwater mussel species.

The Conservancy’s West Branch French Creek Conservation Area now protects six miles of forested land along the West Branch French Creek, a major tributary to French Creek and a half mile of frontage on Alder Brook, a wetland and feeder stream to the creek. Forested buffers along rivers and streams help to regulate water temperature, improve aquatic habitat and overall water quality.

In addition to important stream frontage, these acres expand public access on the conservation area for hunting, fishing, hiking, nature study, and bird and wildlife watching. The Conservancy plans to install additional signage and parking in the future.

“French Creek and protecting properties within its watershed continue to be of great conservation importance to the Conservancy, not only to preserve land and this important waterway for rare, endangered and common species, but to provide expanded opportunities for the public to enjoy and explore,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy.

These properties were acquired with funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and a family’s gift in memory of their son and brother, Brad Barnes. Barnes, who lived in the area, was dedicated to conservation and to protecting endangered plants and animals. His family has conserved several ecologically significant WPC-protected properties in the French Creek watershed in his memory. Funding was also provided through the estate of Helen B. Katz and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.