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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Preserves Area’s Natural Beauty


Western Pennsylvania Conservancy volunteers plant flowers in a local community garden.
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy volunteers plant flowers in a local community garden.

Spring is right around the corner, and there isn’t a better time to explore some of the beautiful natural areas that help make our region special. And chances are, once you begin exploring, some of those areas were created, conserved or maintained by or with the assistance of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The Conservancy has been serving PA for over 90 years and to learn more, NHM reached out to Carmen Bray, Senior Director of Communication of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.


North Hills Monthly (NHM): Can you tell us a little bit about Western PA Conservancy including the mission?


Carmen Bray (Bray): A member-based nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy enhances the region by protecting and restoring exceptional places.




During its 92-year history, the Conservancy has helped establish 11 state parks, conserved more than a quarter million acres of natural lands, protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams and assessed thousands of rare, threatened and endangered species and their habitats. We maintain 42 nature preserves, freely open to the public, for people to enjoy and experience nature.


The Conservancy also owns and operates Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, a house museum in Fayette County that is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, the Conservancy enriches our region’s cities and towns through 130 community gardens and other green spaces, such as rain gardens and bioswales. More than 105,000 trees have been planted in cities and towns with the help of more than 7,000 volunteers. The work of the Conservancy is accomplished through the support of more than 10,000 members.


We have a remarkable, powerful and shared legacy of making our corner of the world a better place to live, work and explore for all of us today and for future generations.


NHM: What is the impact that the Conservancy has on Western PA?


Bray: The work of the Conservancy has been a collective effort of our members, donors, staff, board, partners and volunteers, and together our efforts have led to significant historical, cultural and ecological impacts to our region. Western Pennsylvania is a beautiful, dramatic, varied and scenic region of extensive forests, picturesque mountain ridges, broad rivers, wild streams, beautiful vistas, and miles of farmland. Our region has biologically diverse ecosystems, and habitats important to the wide range of plant and animal species of our region. And our region has a site on the UNESCO World Heritage List with the recent designation of Fallingwater.



We are committed to thinking strategically and working on projects to address the biggest issues of our time such as climate change, invasive species and the biodiversity crises to ensure nature is protected and thriving in Western Pennsylvania. At Fallingwater, we’ve instituted programs for youth to learn about nature and architecture, and advanced programs through the Fallingwater Institute for youth and adult creators, designers and architects to learn and hone their crafts. The Conservancy’s nature preserves offer 14,000 acres for all people to use and enjoy. In communities across our region, we’ve planted more than 105,000 trees since 2008.


Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is at the heart of all of this historic, cultural, educational and ecological significance in our region.


NHM: Do you partner/interact with other like-minded organizations and if yes, how?


Bray: The work of the Conservancy is a collective effort of members, donors, staff, board, volunteers and many partners. We are fortunate to have a broad network of like-minded partners who help make our work to protect, restore and beautify the region possible.

Our work is maximized through a variety of partnerships. Much of our land and watershed conservation work is done in partnership with local land trusts, watershed associations and other conservation groups across the region. The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, which works throughout Pennsylvania to protect rare and endangered species and their habitats, is a partnership between the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the PA Game Commission, PA Fish and Boat Commission and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

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Similarly, our work of planting nearly 40,000 new trees in Pittsburgh since 2008 through TreeVitalize Pittsburgh would not be possible without the support of our partners. TreeVitalize Pittsburgh is a joint partnership with Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, Tree Pittsburgh, PA DCNR and the Conservancy.


NHM: What is the size of your staff? Assuming that volunteers assist with the mission, how many volunteers does the Conservancy have?


Bray: The Conservancy employs 230 people. The Conservancy’s main office is located in Pittsburgh. A total of eight offices are located throughout the western part of the state, stretching as far east as Harrisburg.


The Conservancy is grateful to have more than 7,000 volunteers annually supporting our work in so many ways.


NHM: What geographical area does the Conservancy serve?


Bray: The Conservancy works in nearly every county, in cities and towns and in rural and urban areas, across Western Pennsylvania.


NHM: What are the key concentrations of the Conservancy, and can you tell us a bit about each one?


Bray: The Conservancy preserves land to help native plants, animals, and natural areas thrive; these areas are some of the most exceptional natural lands in our region. We restore rivers and streams to keep them cool and clean to improve water quality for aquatic and human species alike. We study wildlife and their habitats, and we restore land to remove invasive species. The Conservancy also plants trees and gardens and a variety of other green spaces in cities and towns. And we own and care for Fallingwater.


NHM: What would people be surprised to know about the Conservancy?


Bray: People in record numbers are discovering the restorative effects of spending time in nature. Do you know that there’s a Conservancy-owned preserve near you? We own, care for and manage 42 places with 20 miles of trails to relax, reflect and rejuvenate while enjoying wildlife and beautiful scenery. Our nature preserves are open to all. For example, at Wolf Creek Narrows Natural Area in Butler County near Slippery Rock, there is an accessible parking space as well as a half-mile loop trail that connects the lot with the original 1.1-mile trail. And in Allegheny County, Toms Run Nature Reserve, located near Sewickley,

offers three miles of trail hiking and excellent bird-watching opportunities. Plan your outdoor adventure by visiting our user-friendly, searchable Explore Our Preserves section on

www.WaterLandLife.org to filter by county, activities, parking availability and size.


NHM: How can people get involved with the Conservancy’s work? Along those lines, are there fundraisers, volunteering opportunities, learning experiences, etc.?


Bray: There are so many ways to get involved in the work of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. We have year-round volunteer opportunities open to the public in all of our program areas. Volunteers of all ages can make a lasting difference for our communities and the environment. For example, many volunteers help us plant trees and pollinator-friendly plants in our gardens, and enhance trails and remove invasives on our preserves.

Visit WaterLandLife.org, email info@paconserve.org or call 412-288-2777 for more information on becoming or member or volunteering. 

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