Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Raises Funds to Protect State’s Beauty

Mar 14, 2013

Volunteers from Phillips Elementary in Pittsburgh work in the WPC garden at Carson St and Sarah St on the South Side.
Credit Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) has protected 230,000 acres of state land in its 71-year history. With the announcement of its first comprehensive fundraising campaign, the WPC seeks to safeguard even more of the state’s beauty. The WPC seeks to raise $40 million.

Though WPC may be best known for its management of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, a National Historic Landmark, they seek to conserve water, land and life in diverse environments throughout the region, said Tom Saunders, WPC President and CEO.

“We’re planting 20,000 trees in the city of Pittsburgh," he said. "We have 135 gardens that we plant each spring in the city and other counties nearby, and we do watershed work.”

Those 135 community gardens are cared for by nearly 13,000 volunteers. The gardens are a manifestation of WPC’s goal to enrich residents’ relationships with the natural world.

“They’re planting flowers every spring, getting the gardens set up, taking them up in the fall," Saunders said. "I guess I always think that if people can organize to do those things, they can probably organize to get other things done in their neighborhood, too. It’s just all a very positive thing.”

Thanks to individual and foundational gifts over the last two years, WPC begins its public fundraising with $25 million.

The organization hopes to raise $23 million for land acquisition and conservation, $5 million for upkeep of Fallingwater, $8 million for gardens and $3 million for operational support, Saunders said. The campaign funds will allow WPC to focus on a set of 10-year goals.

“Our goals are, over a decade, to do 50,000 more acres of land protection and 1,500 more stream miles where we clean up rivers and streams lots of different ways," Saunders said. He added WPC wants to "hit 20,000 street trees and then fund up our stewardship work for the properties we own.”

WPC works throughout western Pennsylvania, but its 10-year goals will focus on four main geographical areas: the Laurel Highlands, the Northern Woods, French Creek, and the Ridge and Valley region.

Protecting the region for residents is crucial, Saunders said.

“I think part of the great thing about quality of life in this region is that you can live in this wonderful city and then get out an hour’s drive and get into these beautiful, remote places,” he said.