West Virginia Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Recognizing that in many cases vital conservation information on the natural history, abundance and distribution of those species defined as in greatest need of conservation is incomplete, the West Virginia Wildlife Conservation Action Plan charts a course for science-driven, active conservation of fish and wildlife resources over the next decade. Key features of the plan are its emphasis on West Virginia Wildlife conservation actions, including a habitat conservation initiative, and the collaborative approach to plan implementation. The plan is both species- and habitat-based, its core component being the 128 species and species group fact sheets that will function as miniplans within the broader comprehensive plan. Although the plan covers a ten-year span, it is actually only the first step in a continuous, adaptive management process for collaborative conservation of the state’s fish and wildlife resources and the habitats that sustain them.


West Virginia, with a mean elevation of 1500 feet, is the most elevated state east of the Mississippi River. Because of the wide variation in elevation, latitude and longitude, West Virginia is considered a “transition state,” having attributes of the northern and southern states, and to some extent, eastern and western states. With a population of only about 1.8 million, it is also one of the most rural states in the East. Approximately 12 percent of land in West Virginia is publicly owned, with the remaining 88 percent in private holdings. Thus, West Virginia faces the challenge of working with private landowners to conserve species in greatest need of conservation.

Wildlife Highlights

With its wealth of contiguous quality forested habitats, West Virginia is crucial to sustaining viable populations, as well as providing source populations, for many of the declining neotropical migratory bird species. The state’s pristine mountain streams harbor a broad array of fish, mussels, dragonflies and damselflies, and other aquatic invertebrates.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in West Virginia

The West Virginia Wildlife Conservation Action Plan identifies eight major conservation issues. The three major regional conservation issues include mining, commercial and residential development, and atmospheric acid deposition. The remaining five major conservation issues occur statewide and include stream sedimentation, forest health, invasive species, water pollution, and in-stream, wetland and riparian habitat loss.

Working Together for West Virginia’s Wildlife

Over a period of two years the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources held several meetings with 31 experts to review the lists of candidate species in order to select the state’s species in greatest need of conservation, as well as to analyze threats to the species and to recommend conservation actions. The Division offered the draft plan for review to 57 cooperators, including the West Virginia Wildlife Diversity Council, Partners in Flight, Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Oglebay Institute, The Nature Conservancy, New River Gorge National Park, Entomological Society and Trout Unlimited. In addition, plan partner meetings were held to provide an opportunity for face-to-face input.

The West Virginia Conservation Action Plan was also available for public review on the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources website. At the National Hunting and Fish Days Celebration held at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, the plan was presented at a Division-sponsored booth, which was visited by over 300 interested individuals.

Every two years the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will host a public symposium to share information on the species and habitats listed in the plan, reassess the species in greatest need of conservation, set priorities for the next two years and revise the plan. In that way the Conservation Action Plan will remain a dynamic and useful document to help West Virginians conserve the state’s wildlife and their habitats for the future.


The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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