Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Founded 1932

Unemployment was high, while morale was low, during the Great Depression, yet ten motivated citizens came together to found a non-profit conservation organization, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The group strove to alleviate unemployment through public works programs that would also enhance the region’s natural resources.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy serves as a strong voice for conservation through the protection of more than 254,000 acres of natural lands in the Commonwealth, the establishment of ten state parks, and the protection or restoration of more than 1,500 miles of rivers and streams. They also manage and maintain the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright home, Fallingwater.

In 2002, the conservancy partnered with the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, the Bureau of State Parks, and other organizations to acquire a 2.4-acre property and vacant church on the outskirts of Altoona. Before the onset of white nose syndrome, a so-far incurable disease decimating bat populations, the church was home to more than 20,000 bats, including 41 federal and state endangered Indiana bats. A video of these bats in flight will cause you to hope a cure can be found!

In February 2013, the conservancy purchased 100 acres that were conveyed to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This land now connects two separate pieces of the Sweet Root Natural Area of the Buchanan State Forest, resulting in better public access for hikers, hunters, and other recreationists.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy recruits numerous volunteers to help with the protection and preservation of land and water in the state. Volunteers assist conservancy staff in a range of activities, from cleaning up illegal dumps to removing invasive weeds, building bridges, repairing trails, and beautifying open spaces through gardening, among other tasks. Their Community Gardens and Greenspace program includes more than 12,000 volunteers working in 20 counties. The conservancy works with other conservation organizations as well, such as The Nature Conservancy and the Wild Resource Conservation Program, to promote community involvement and conserve Pennsylvania’s natural treasures.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy was the winner of the prestigious Cliff Jones Keystone Legacy Award in 2013.