In the early 1980s, The Nature Conservancy transferred to the New River Gorge National River a 1,200 tract of land at Sandstone Falls that Union Carbide had given to TNC a decade earlier.
In 1989, the conservancy helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service buy the first eight islands that would become a part of the 22-island Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
In 2000, TNC acquired mineral rights to 57,300 acres, and 731 acres of land on Cheat Mountain, which later were transferred to the Monongahela National Forest. In 2004, TNC transferred 1,480 acres it bought from a Pocahontas County lumber company to the Monongahela National Forest. Four years later, the conservancy bought 4,584 acres of land between the New River Gorge National and Babcock State Park, which became part of the Beury Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
In 2011, TNC acquired a 1,080-acre tract near Mount Porte Crayon in Randolph County and transferred it to the Monongahela National Forest. Last year, the conservancy supported the transfer of 3,080 acres of former Canaan Valley Institute land to the state, to create the new Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area.
This year, the conservancy plans to transfer another 450 acres of ridge-top property near Mount Porte Crayon to the Monongahela National Forest.
"In all, The Nature Conservancy has helped conserve 120,000 acres of land in West Virginia," said Rodney Bartgis, the conservancy's state director. "It's a legacy we're quite proud of."
Bartgis said the West Virginia chapter's momentum for conservation remains strong, but the next 50 years will present stronger-than-ever challenges from competing needs for energy and forests, climate change and invasive species.
"I've been lucky to know and be inspired by folks like Charlie Baer and Eleanor Bush, who were there at the beginning, who could envision what others could not, and who were able to make that vision reality," Bartgis said in a recent chapter newsletter.
To help people get acquainted with some of the places the West Virginia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy has protected during its first half century, the chapter has posted a West Virginia Travel Guide, featuring a Top 10 list of outdoor destinations it has had a hand in protecting.
The guide, with drop-down bars for directions and additional information about each site, can be found here. It includes Bear Rocks, the New River Gorge, Gauley Canyon, Brush Creek, Cheat Mountain, Pike Knob, Ohio River Islands, Cranesville Swamp, Dolly Sods and Canaan Valley.
On Sept. 7, the conservancy is hosting a 50th anniversary train ride from Elkins to the spruce forests atop Cheat Mountain and back aboard the Cheat Mountain Salamander excursion train. Bartgis will narrate natural history highlights along the route. For reservations, call 1-877-7245. To receive a $5 discount, give the ticket agent the discount code NC-Spruce-0160.Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.