Land Acquisition Benefits West Virginia Wildlife, 120 Acres Added to Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

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Land Acquisition Benefits West Virginia Wildlife, 120 Acres Added to Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge Davis, WV  – West Virginia prides itself on its wild havens, and many outdoor enthusiasts regard Tucker County – with its rugged mountains, clean streams and rivers and outstanding recreational opportunities – as one of the region’s great treasures.  Today, The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the West Virginia congressional delegation and American Electric Power (AEP) announced the addition of 120 acres of important wildlife habitat to Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.  AEP, whose Appalachian Power utility subsidiary serves a significant portion of West Virginia, provided partial funding as part of a Clean Air Act settlement agreement.Situated at 3,200 feet above sea level, Canaan Valley is the highest valley of its size east of the Rocky Mountains.  Its high altitude and cold, humid climate have produced 40 types of ecological communities in this rich and unusually diverse wetland complex.  Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge supports 400 plant and 280 animal species, including the West Virginia northern flying squirrel and the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander.          
“This acquisition protects some of the most significant natural resources within the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge,” said Jonathan Schafler, refuge manager at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.  “I thank Senator Byrd, Representative Mollohan, The Conservation Fund, AEP and the many other people who have championed the effort to conserve this important wildlife habitat for the future.”

The newly-acquired property sits adjacent to Monongahela National Forest, creating a significant ecological corridor on the eastern side of the refuge.  Numerous song bird species, including the American woodcock, inhabit the property’s mixture of wetlands, mature hardwood forest and upland meadows.  Flat Run, a high quality year-round water source and tributary of the Blackwater River, originates on the land and provides habitat for both brook and brown trout.

USFWS identified this property – one of the largest unprotected tracts of land within the refuge boundary – as a top acquisition priority because of its critical linkage to other protected lands as well as the high value nesting habitat for grassland-dependent and forest dwelling migratory songbirds.  The tract also protects significant wetlands particularly important to the American woodcock and ensures enhanced water quality downstream where Flat Run meets the main stem of the Blackwater River.

“We applaud the collaborative efforts of the diverse partners involved in this addition to Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge,” said Reggie Hall, real estate associate for The Conservation Fund.  “This transaction enhances one of the state’s greatest natural areas and ensures that future generations will have the opportunity to experience everything this gem has to offer.”

The Conservation Fund purchased the property from North Lake II, LLC, a Maryland-based housing developer, and held the land while it worked with the USFWS to obtain the funding necessary to take ownership.  Sen. Robert C. Byrd and Rep. Alan B. Mollohan championed the project in Congress and secured federal appropriations from the Land and Water Conservation Fund in last year’s Interior Appropriations bill.

“I believe it is a moral responsibility to work to preserve West Virginia’s diverse animal and plant life for our children and grandchildren,” said Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.  “And with millions of visitors traveling to West Virginia each year to experience our state’s natural beauty, I am proud to have been a part of this worthy effort to further protect West Virginia’s natural resources and keep our state wild and wonderful.”

“Canaan Valley is one of our country’s special places and one of West Virginia’s great assets,” said Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, D-W.Va.  “When The Conservation Fund approached me with this project two years ago, I was happy to support their request and I am pleased with this expansion of the refuge.”

“This property is one of the wild, wonderful areas that exemplifies West Virginia’s natural beauty,” said Dana Waldo, Appalachian Power president and COO.  “AEP and Appalachian Power are pleased to partner in this effort to protect it.”

This refuge addition demonstrates a partnership effort to invest in the state’s natural assets and maintain West Virginia as a world-class destination for nature-based tourism and recreation, a booming industry that contributes greatly to the local economy.  The Conservation Fund – which helped establish Canaan Valley as the 500th national wildlife refuge and helped protect nearly 14,000 acres of the refuge’s 16,000 total acres – is working in partnership with The Nature Conservancy to conserve additional high value lands at the refuge.  The Fund is also working with a team of local leaders interested in increasing the region’s importance as a gateway to the Central Appalachian Highlands.

“Forging partnerships from all corners – private, public and nonprofit – opens the door to so many more possibilities to enhance communities and protect quality of life,” said Henry Moomau, representative for North Lake II, LLC.  “We’re happy to work with The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on this conservation solution that benefits both wildlife and the people who call West Virginia home.”

About The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund is dedicated to advancing America?s land and water legacy.  With our partners, we conserve land, train leaders and invest in conservation at home.  Since 1985, we have helped protect more than 6 million acres, sustaining wild havens, working lands and vibrant communities.  We’re a top-ranked conservation organization, effective and efficient.

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