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Donated to Conservation Effort
Area residents have a natural area protected in part
by The Nature Conservancy right in their back yard, so to speak.
It's the Ohio River Islands Wildlife Refuge.
refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
but it was established through a cooperative arrangement in which
the Conservancy played a role.
One site in the refuge is Fish Creek Island in Marshall
Located in the waters of the Ohio River south of Moundsville,
the 48-acre island was previously owned by CONSOL Energy Inc.
CONSOL donated the island a haven for rare great blue herons
to the Conservancy, the world's largest private conservation
organization with more than 1 million members worldwide.
The donation was made as part of an effort
to preserve the Western Allegheny Plateau Ecoregion a 27
million-acre ecoregion encompassing parts of Ohio, West Virginia,
Pennsylvania, Kentucky and New York. Large tracts of forest still
remain in many parts of this region, and they contain numerous
rivers and streams filled with diverse wildlife that make their
way to the Ohio River. These species include waterfowl, shore
and wading birds, neotropical migratory birds, wetland wildlife
and freshwater fish and mussels.
"One of the most significant things about this island
is that it is home to a great blue heron nesting colony,"
said Janet Butler, outdoor recreation planner for the Ohio River
Island National Wildlife Refuge, a linked network of more than
12,000 acres of floodplain forests, wetlands and aquatic habitat
stretching over 400 miles from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati. According
to Butler, an inventory of the island has revealed a total of
86 nests there, although she reported the herons have shifted
many of their nests because the island is also being used by campers.
She explained that this is a concern because the birds typically
don't do well when they must share close quarters with humans.
"I think the donation of this island will ensure the
future for the great blue heron because it will not be developed,"
Butler said. She added that it will also be important to the conservation
of other bird species and for freshwater wildlife. She explained
a survey to determine the population of native freshwater mussels
surrounding the island will be conducted.
Also, surveyors will check the level of zebra mussel infestation
in the area. Zebra mussels are a non-native species.
All of these efforts are in keeping with the goal of the
refuge, which is to fulfill the needs of fish, wildlife and plants
that are native to "big river" ecosystems. The refuge
is designed to serve as an anchor for biodiversity and as a model
for habitat restoration throughout the Ohio River Valley ecosystem.
Butler said that while an 18-acre portion of Wheeling Island
was donated to the Nature Conservancy a few years ago, the Fish
Creek Island project was the first donation of land made to the
agency by CONSOL Energy.
With several coal mining operations located throughout the
Upper Ohio Valley, CONSOL is the largest producer of high-Btu
bituminous coal in the United States and the largest exporter
of U.S. coal. CONSOL has 26 mines in seven states and two provinces
in Canada. CONSOL and its predecessor companies have been industry
leaders in production, profitability, safety and environmental
stewardship for more than 140 years.
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