Colcom Foundation Grant Goes Toward Conserving 173-Acres in Westmoreland County, PA

The permanent protection of a 173-acre forested property in Ligonier Township has been ensured thanks to a generous Colcom Foundation grant and other donors and the persistent efforts of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

An easement to a property belonging to Brian S. McKelvey was purchased to preserve the land in perpetuity by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy with the assistance of donors like Colcom Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on ecological sustainability. 

The 173-acre property in Ligonier Township, Westmoreland County, is covered in dense forest and boasts a variety of unique ecological features, including more than a half-mile of riparian frontage along Mill Creek, which is a tributary to Loyalhanna Creek.

Flowing from the western slope of Laurel Ridge, Mill Creek is an integral part of the 298-mile Loyalhanna Creek watershed. The creek is a cold-water fishery that supports natural trout reproduction and provides a habitat for Eastern brook trout. A 2003 cold water conservation plan that included a bio-assessment for Mill Creek revealed the presence of brook trout in the headwaters of the stream. These headwaters originate in the mountains that border Cambria County.

The cold waters of the stream provide a natural environment for the Eastern brook trout and Eastern brook lamprey. The easement designates this area as a priority watershed, as per the Loyalhanna Watershed Association and Trout Unlimited. 

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks the creek for trout fishing, making it a popular spot for anglers.

Twenty acres of the property are available for public access. This section is situated along the creek and the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail and offers visitors the chance to walk, fish, and explore the area. The area provides an opportunity for people to experience and appreciate the creek’s natural beauty and its surrounding landscape and learn about the importance of protecting and conserving these valuable natural resources.

In addition to its recreational value, the land protected by the easement comprises several wetlands, which are vital components of the ecosystem that retain rainwater and help reduce the risk of flooding. Furthermore, the forested area provides a natural habitat for a diverse range of wildlife, while around 60 acres of the land will continue to be utilized for farming.

Colcom Foundation has a longstanding history of working in partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy by funding the purchase of conservation easements in the Ligonier Valley and through the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Colcom Foundation Revolving Fund for Local Land Trusts. The $1 million in grants from Colcom Foundation that makes the loan fund possible provides grants in the form of short-term loans to land trusts and other nonprofit organizations seeking to preserve open space and conserve high-priority properties. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy acts as the fund administrator, leveraging its extensive expertise in land conservation, acquired over many decades, and its longstanding collaborations with local land trusts to achieve mutual conservation objectives.

Colcom Foundation is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1996 by Cordelia S. May to support Conservation causes and foster public discussion on ecologically sustainable immigration levels. The Foundation’s primary philanthropic objectives are to address ecosystem degradation and preserve the cultural heritage of the southwestern Pennsylvania region. A board of directors oversees the Foundation’s asset management.

Locally, Colcom Foundation supports environmental and conservation projects in southwestern Pennsylvania, which includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties.

In addition to its support of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Colcom Foundation also supports WeConservePA, a community of conservation volunteers, professionals, and supporters united around common interests and needs. The Foundation’s work aids organizations and individuals to successfully conserve land, safeguard and rejuvenate waterways, adopt sustainable practices, and facilitate people’s connection to nature. 

The Foundation’s local efforts also include substantial donations toward addressing the accelerating environmental impact of shale drilling in western Pennsylvania. Grants are directed toward public education, community engagement, best practices, baseline data collection, water quality monitoring, landowner guidance, and collaborative projects.

On the national level, Colcom Foundation aims to foster discussions and increase consciousness regarding population growth as a vital aspect of preserving the environment. Through its philanthropic work, the Foundation advocates for conservation and ecosystem health for the protection of future generations. 

Learn more about Colcom Foundation here:

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