For the Cumberland Times-News
DAVIS, W.Va. — The addition of 325 acres to Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge connects two areas of the refuge and offers an ideal nesting habitat for a variety of song and game birds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Conservation Fund announced Thursday.
The acquisition protects one of the largest undeveloped areas of land within the refuge boundary, securing a significant ecological corridor with the Monongahela National Forest and establishing a critical link in the Heart of the Highlands Trail.
The American woodcock, golden-winged warbler, indigo bunting, scarlet tanager and Canada warbler will benefit from the protected piece of property. This addition, together with a 120-acre tract conserved in 2008, will ensure enhanced water quality of Flat Run — a high-quality, year-round water source and tributary of the Blackwater River.
“The diverse refuge lands already provide a range of wildlife habitats and this new acquisition will help increase habitat for native species,” said Jonathan Schafler, refuge manager at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. “We are thankful for our partnership with our senators and representatives in Congress, The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy for making this acquisition possible.”
Canaan Valley is the largest high-elevation boreal valley in eastern North America, encompassing more than 24,000 acres in the northeastern portion of West Virginia. The region contains 8,400 acres of nationally significant wetlands habitat including 40 different wetland and upland plant communities. Collectively these vital ecosystems support more than 580 different species of plants, more than 280 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and two federally listed species — the West Virginia northern flying squirrel and Cheat Mountain salamander. Among this wetland complex is one of the nation’s largest shrub swamps and the fourth-largest bog in the eastern U.S.
“By protecting the ecological integrity of this area, we are creating crucial buffer zones that secure the highest quality habitat for many species that call the Canaan Valley home,” said Reggie Hall, real estate associate for The Conservation Fund. We are proud to be a part of these collaborative efforts to protect a West Virginian natural treasure.”
The West Virginia congressional delegation in 2009 and 2010 played a key role in securing funding for this acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal land protection program that receives significant revenue from the development of federally owned offshore oil and gas rights. Additional funding was also made available from The Nature Conservancy.
“Canaan Valley is truly a special place, and we are very grateful for the efforts that are being put forth to preserve it,” said Sen. Joe Manchin.