More than $7 million has been raised to back the conservation of Cheat Canyon in West Virginia. Private funding included $2.6 million from the estate of Charlotte Ryde and a combined gift of $1 million from Warburg Pincus and Antero Resources.
The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources – allies in the permanent conservation of West Virginia’s Cheat Canyon – gathered today with funding partners and the community to celebrate this conservation success story and participate in the dedication of the canyon to the people of West Virginia.
More than $7 million has been raised to preserve the canyon, an achievement celebrated by the conservationists, whitewater enthusiasts, business leaders, government officials and community members at the event.
The public-private partnership that made the project a reality includes:
• Private funding provided through generous gifts to The Nature Conservancy, including $2.6 million from the estate of Charlotte Ryde and a combined gift of $1 million from Warburg Pincus and Antero Resources. This $1 million gift from Warburg Pincus and Antero Resources enabled this project to move forward at a critical time.
• A package of public grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and the West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund, as well as mitigation dollars.
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin stood high over the canyon at the popular overlook at Coopers Rock State Forest and formally welcomed the public to the Cheat Canyon Wildlife Management Area. Located upstream of Coopers Rock, with more than 3,800 acres of remote canyon forest surrounding seven miles of roaring whitewater, the Mountain State’s newest natural area helps to conserve:
• most of the canyon not already included in Coopers Rock State Forest and Snake Hill Wildlife Management Area, and the spectacular view that people enjoy from Coopers Rock;
• a section of river that has been called one of the most “ecologically intact” in the Central Appalachians by The Nature Conservancy, due to the absence of dams and the river’s connection to well-forested headwaters;
• public access to seven miles of the 330-mile Allegheny Trail, which had been re-routed away from the canyon after it was closed by a previous owner – a resource for hikers, bird-watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts;
• nearly all of the Cheat River used for whitewater rafting and kayaking, from put-in to take-out, rim to rim, protecting the water quality and the view for the benefit of users; and
• fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, as well as hunting opportunities for deer, turkey, bear and squirrel.
“The conservation efforts we celebrate today are a result of the decades of work and millions of dollars in investments from those in our local communities, public agencies and conservation groups,” Gov. Tomblin said. “When we work together to support these public-private partnerships, we are providing further opportunities to create areas for West Virginians to enjoy all of the natural beauty our state has to offer.”
Cheat Canyon is a deep gorge through which the Cheat River flows from Rowlesburg in Preston County, on its way to Cheat Lake in Monongalia County, not far from Morgantown. Known mostly as a whitewater hotspot, the Cheat River draws tourists from throughout the Eastern U.S. And a warm water fishery continues to make a remarkable recovery as water quality issues upstream are addressed.
Cheat Canyon also is significant because of its rich diversity of plants and animals – from black bear and bobcat in its forests to uncommon bats and green salamanders in its caves to large-flowered Barbara’s buttons along the river. More than ten endangered, threatened, or globally rare species occur in the Canyon, including the flat-spired three-toothed land snail, which exists nowhere else on earth, and the Indiana bat, both protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.