HARPERS FERRY, WV (LOOTPRESS) – The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) in partnership with the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) announced the permanent protection of the Little Bluestone Community Forest in Summers County, West Virginia.
This newly-protected area will add to the constellation of public lands between the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.), the Bluestone National Scenic River, and the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, providing numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation and sustained economic development throughout the region.
“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to partner with the West Virginia Land Trust in facilitating not only community-led conservation in southeastern West Virginia, but in helping to further elevate the constellation of public lands along the New River, including the Appalachian Trail landscape,” said Sandra Marra, President and CEO of the ATC. “Beyond the undeniable recreational and economic value this will provide for the region, these lands will protect irreplaceable cultural sites and tie in directly with the ATC’s goals of protecting climate-resilient lands throughout the Appalachian region.”
“West Virginia is ripe with opportunities to conserve lands that provide public benefits, such as recreation, clean water, unique habitats, historic and educational sites, and more,” said Brent Bailey, Executive Director of the West Virginia Land Trust. “But philanthropy that can fund land acquisitions is very limited in our state. We could not have protected this beautiful site on the Little Bluestone River without the financial support from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The ATC’s funds provided the necessary matching dollars that the U.S. Forest Service grant program requires. Now this community forest will become part of the mosaic of trails and recreational opportunities that are at the heart of revitalizing local communities.”
The ATC committed $220,000 to the completion of this project as part of its Community Impact Grant program, assisting in the acquisition of several parcels of land along the Little Bluestone River. One hundred and forty acres of land — the family farm of sixth-generation landowners Jack Willis and Sharon Brescoach — have already been added to this important landscape, with the goal of securing 370 acres to ensure the forest is conserved for future generations.
The Little Bluestone Community Forest is also the recipient of competitive funds from the USDA Forest Service’s Community Forest Program — the first such forest in West Virginia. The Community Forest Program recognizes areas that provide a variety of positive impacts to the surrounding communities, including economic benefits through active forest management, clean water, wildlife habitat, educational opportunities and public access for recreation. The land protected through this partnership will pave the way for community-led development of recreational trails as well as increased fishing and hunting access. The transformation of these privately held lands into a Community Forest will also protect the setting and further enhance access to a protected historic site, Cooper’s Mill, providing additional tourism opportunities for the region.
Funding for this project was provided by the ATC Community Impact Grant program, made possible by the voluntary stewardship agreement between the ATC, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC and The Conservation Fund. This agreement provides up to $19.5 million in funds to advance the ATC’s work to manage and protect the A.T., help The Conservation Fund secure additional conservation lands for public use, and enhance Trail-related community economic development. The ATC will utilize these funds to protect land around the A.T. and ensure it is conserved for generations to come.
For additional details about this project, visit www.wvlandtrust.org/news-items/little-bluestone-community-forest-project/.
About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. A unit of the National Park System, the A.T. ranges from Maine to Georgia and is 2,194.3 miles in length. It is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. The mission of the ATC is to protect, manage, and advocate for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. For more information, please visit www.appalachiantrail.org.
About West Virginia Land Trust
WVLT is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting West Virginia’s special places forever. Since 1994, the organization has protected more than 20,000 acres of land, creating outdoor recreation opportunities, safeguarding our drinking water supplies, protecting scenic views, preserving historic sites and family farms, and much more. Learn more at www.wvlandtrust.org.