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The Nature Conservancy is a private, non-profit conservation organization. Its mission is to preserve plants, animals, and natural communities by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. Founded in 1951 by a group of scientists concerned about the loss of natural areas, the Conservancy currently has chapters in all 50 states and more than 70 countries around the world. The West Virginia Chapter was founded in 1963 by volunteers, many of whom were associated with West Virginia University.

Three years before the volunteers had worked with the national organization to purchase 259 acres of Cranesville Swamp to protect the wetland and promote its use for nature study. The Cranesville Swamp Preserve, located in Preston County and Garrett County, Maryland, now includes 1,774 acres. The Conservancy manages other West Virginia preserves as well, including Brush Creek in Mercer County; Bear Rocks in Grant County; Brooklyn Heights in Tucker County; Charlotte Ryde in Preston County; Mount Porte Crayon in Randolph County; Eidolon in Morgan County; Greenland Gap in Grant County; Hungry Beech in Roane County; Ice Mountain in Hampshire County; Murphy in Ritchie County; Panther Knob in Pendleton County; Pike Knob in Pendleton County; Slaty Mountain in Monroe County; Upper Shavers Fork in Randolph County; and Yankauer in Berkeley County.

In the 1980s, the Conservancy bought a conservation easement to protect General Davis Cave in Greenbrier County, the only known home of the West Virginia spring salamander. It was the first time an easement—a legally binding agreement that limits certain types of uses or development on private land—had been used by the Conservancy in West Virginia. Since then, the organization has acquired easements in other parts of the state, including Smoke Hole Canyon in Pendleton and Grant counties.

The Conservancy has also helped government agencies acquire land for many natural areas, including Monongahela National Forest, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Cathedral State Park, Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Shannondale Springs Wildlife Management Area, Beury Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area.

As of 2023, the Conservancy had helped preserve 125,000 acres of land in West Virginia.

The Conservancy relies upon scientific information to determine what rare plant and animal populations and ecosystems are the highest conservation priorities, how to conserve lands supporting these features, and how to restore natural areas that have been damaged by human activity.

This Article was written by Rodney Bartgis

Last Revised on March 17, 2023


Green, Diana Kyle. A Golden History: The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia, Part I. Wonderful West Virginia, 77, 9, September 2013.

Green, Diana Kyle. A Golden Anniversary: The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia, Part II. Wonderful West Virginia, 77, 10, October 2013.

Cite This Article

Bartgis, Rodney "Nature Conservancy." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 17 March 2023. Web. 24 July 2024.


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