CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — More than $4 million in federal money will help protect rare bats, perennial herbs and fish that live in rivers inside West Virginia and Virginia forests.

Congress has appropriated $3.67 million in federal Forest Legacy money to conserve land in the Potomac River’s South Branch in northeastern West Virginia, including land known for its rich plant and animal life, according to Forester John Rowe.

The area is home to the endangered Virginia big-eared bat, the world’s largest populations of Virginia nailwort once thought to cure toenail and fingernail diseases, and the state’s only native trout species, the brook trout, which live and reproduce in only the coldest and purist mountain streams.

An additional $490,000 is dedicated to the New River Corridor in southwestern Virginia. It involves two properties totaling 124 acres in Grayson County, Va., that is home to two species of perch, the Kanawha darter and the Appalachia darter, and the Kanawha minnow, said Rob Farrell, assistant director for forest land conservation.

The Forest Legacy program provides money to states to buy land or conservation easements from private owners who voluntarily agree not to develop their acreage. Federal tax money pays up to 75 percent of the cost with the remainder coming from private conservation groups, state coffers or other local sources.

Last year, which was West Virginia’s inaugural year in the program, it conserved more than 700 acres near Romney, an area of South Branch known for its scenery and nesting bald eagles.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said the timing of the funding couldn’t be better because forest owners in the South Branch are coming under increasing pressure from developers and others to sell.

“Many families are considering the future of their land in these challenging times,” Manchin noted in a prepared statement.

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., said the recent appropriation will help keep West Virginia “wild and wonderful.”

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