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Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative

Article from PA DCNR

The vision of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape is to protect the unique character of the Laurel Highlands and recognize its communities as world-class heritage/recreation destinations as well as wonderful places to work and live.

Located an hour east of Pittsburgh, the Laurel Highlands is defined by three Allegheny Plateau ridges (the Chestnut, Laurel and Allegheny), Negro Mountain, which contains Pennsylvania's highest point Mt. Davis, and portions of several watersheds. The rolling hillsides rushing streams with waterfalls and picturesque farmlands span five counties (Somerset, Westmoreland, Fayette, and portions of Cambria and Bedford). The region contains Pennsylvania’s only area of the mixed mesophytic forest of the southern Appalachians, which is characterized by the greatest diversity of plants at all forest layers, of all forest types in Pennsylvania.

The region is rich in natural resources including the Youghiogheny, Casselman, Stonycreek and Conemaugh rivers, which offer abundant natural and recreational assets. Central to the Laurel Highlands is the 70-mile long Laurel Ridge, a high plateau region with deep cut hollows covering over 200,000 acres rich in amphibian, avian and plant biodiversity. The region contains Pennsylvania’s longest running bird banding site at Powdermill Nature Reserve, operated by Carnegie Museum.

The Laurel Highlands is a traditional vacation and tourism area for Pittsburgh and Johnstown, and has growing appeal to a broader array of cultural and recreational visitors. The Laurel Highlands conservation landscape initiative seeks to engage local communities and visitors in the conservation of the region’s land, water and culture.

The goals of this region are to:

  • revitalize core communities and expand local and regional economies through sustainable resource use and development
  • conserve, restore, and improve ecological (aquatic and terrestrial), cultural, historic, and recreational resources of the region to sustain economic growth
  • build capacity and constituency in the region to implement and maintain the revitalization of communities and sustainability of the ecological, cultural, historic, and recreational resources of the region

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