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Conservation group grows with new grant

Natural Biodiversity, an organization committed to restoring nature’s diversity in Pennsylvania’s Alleghenies, is excited to announce that it will be partnering with Southern Alleghenies Conservancy (SAC) to expand its focus area to include the 120 mile long Raystown Branch, which covers 964 square miles of the Juniata watershed.
SAC has been awarded a grant from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) for $98,000. CCPI awards competitive grants to organizations that are taking on projects that address pressing conservation and natural resource issues. Of the 81 applications CCPI received this year, the project was one of only 38 approved proposals and the only project from Pennsylvania to be granted funding.
The grant will allow Natural Biodiversity and SAC to work with a variety of partners within the Southern Alleghenies Resource Conservation and Development Area to create a comprehensive management plan for the Raystown Branch, with a focus on assessing and controlling invasive species problems.
The initial steps involved in this project include hosting public meetings for landowners along the Raystown Branch and additional meetings with agricultural landowners enrolled in CREP to determine what invasive species problems exist on their property. Natural Biodiversity will then conduct detailed site assessments, focusing especially on agricultural lands and streambank fencing areas.
The management plan will include a system for early detection and rapid response so that Natural Biodiversity can respond as invasive species problems are reported and before they become difficult to control.
Natural Biodiversity hopes that beginning work on the Raystown Branch will not only help restore wildlife habitat, but also mitigate the invasive species problems that agricultural landowners face, beautify the area, and enhance recreational opportunities.
Since its inception in 2000, Natural Biodiversity has focused its efforts within the Kiski-Conemaugh River Basin, a 1,887 square mile area including the towns of Johnstown, Ebensburg, Indiana, Latrobe, and Leechburg.
The organization works to accomplish its mission of restoring biological diversity through habitat restoration projects and the removal of exotic, invasive species, which are second only to habitat loss as the leading cause of species extinction.
The group’s work can be seen in many locations, such as the Saltsburg section of the West Penn Trail, where they have eliminated 98 percent of the highly invasive Japanese knotweed, and the Park of 1889 in St. Michael, where they are working to create a site which is both an enjoyable campsite for visitors as well as a healthy environment for wildlife. Natural Biodiversity has also removed knotweed from the Water Street section of the Lower Trail.
For more information about Natural Biodiversity, its upcoming projects, or services available to your community, visit their website at www.naturalbiodiversity.org or call 814-506-1194.
Also, Scott Millberg, projects coordinator for the non-profit conservation group, “Natural Biodiversity”, will be presenting to the Little Juniata River Association during their monthly meeting on February 13 at the Tyrone Snyder Public Library in the Community Room at 7 p.m. The Little Juniata River Association is a local non-profit group whose mission is to monitor, preserve and improve the Little “j” as a cold-water resource. The public is welcome to attend.