A ceremony at Cooper’s Rock State Forest just outside of Morgantown celebrates the conservation of 3,800 acres of the Cheat River Canyon dedicated as a state Wildlife Management Area.
The dedication at the Cooper’s Rock overlook gave attendees a clear view of the land that will now serve as a sanctuary for two unique animals:
- Endangered Indiana Bat
- Threatened Flat-Spired Three-Toothed Land Snail
These two species live in the Cheat Canyon and play a significant role in its conservation. The state Division of Natural Resources will focus on the recovery of these animals in its management of the new Cheat Canyon Area.
A Place to Play
Recreation is also part of the plan, on land and in water. Friends of the Cheat Executive Director Amanda Pitzer says the nearly seven million dollar purchase of this section of the Cheat River Canyon recognizes the once-dead river’s recovery.
"It’s land protection, it’s water protection," Pitzer said, "but even better than that, we’re looking to open it up to the public for hunting, for paddling, and to open the Allegheny Trail that’s been closed for several years."
Around eight miles of the Allegheny Trail in the Cheat Canyon was closed to the public when Allegheny Wood Products owned the property. The 330-mile trail traverses the state from north to south.
Plans to protect the canyon, decades in the making, were announced earlier this year. The Conservation Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund all contributed money to the land purchase from Forestland Group.
What’s now known as the Cheat Canyon Wildlife Management Area is open to the public for fishing, hunting, hiking, and whitewater rafting.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin were among those to join members of the Nature Conservancy, the DNR, and multiple conservation groups for the dedication.
“It’s a celebration of a big conservation win, and the dedication of that to the people of West Virginia," Director of Conservation Programs for the Nature Conservancy in West Virginia, Keith Fisher said, "and it’s really a celebration of the partnership that came together to make that win happen.”