A land bridge between two wildlife habitats in Randolph County will now be protected from development.
This project will protect and restore that land bridge that is two to three miles wide, connecting the high country habitats of the Laurel Fork Wilderness and the Seneca Creek Backcountry.
"On Dec. 11 actually we in part purchased a conservation easement over this property at a bargain sale, and part of it was donated by the land owner Steve Callan who lives in Morgantown," said Keith Fisher, director of conservation programs.
Working closely with the local landowner and other conservation partners, The Nature Conservancy is protecting 555 acres in three different tracts; 1.25 miles along Gandy Creek, protecting the entire creek, flood plains and wetlands.
"Gandy Creek is a native brook trout stream. It's an area of high recreational use of fisheries in West Virginia. A lot of folks fish in this stream," Fisher said.
It also protects acreage that goes to the top of the 4,636-foot summit of Pharis Knob, one of 10th highest peaks in the state, and adjoins the Seneca Backcountry and connects the Laurel Fork Wildnerness.
Fisher said permanent conservation easements will ensure the land is protected and land restoration efforts will restore native red spruce forest and tributaries to Gandy Creek, Fisher also said the project is a perfect example of how a landowner can work to protect the land.
"The conservation easement not only does it benefit that natural environment and ecological goals that we have, but it protects his watershed it provides years of quality and quantity of water that he uses for his ranching will continue," Fisher said.
Through the foresight of this landowner and the support of partners, Fisher said an important freshwater resource and the home fishing waters for future generations of West Virginians is being protected.
Fisher said 9,000 red spruce trees have already been planted.
The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect the land since 2012.