Devault, Pa., September 1, 2023 — The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded French & Pickering $162,100 of grant funding to promote the restoration of wildlife habitat along the French Creek. This project will focus on planning, design, and permits for improving habitat within a 4,800-foot corridor along the South Branch of the French Creek that runs through the 108-acre Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve, and 246 acres of adjacent protected wetlands and upland habitats in Warwick and East Nantmeal Townships.
One of 36 grants totaling $14.9 million announced by NFWF on August 31, 2023, this grant comes from the NFWF’s Delaware River Conservation Fund, created in 2018 and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to achieve the goals outlined under the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act. The Fund is dedicated to conserving and restoring natural landscapes, supporting native wildlife and plants, enhancing resilience to extreme weather, and strengthening communities within the 13,539 square miles of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania that make up the Delaware River watershed.
This funding will help French & Pickering to increase the diversity of wildlife and quality of habitat within and along the South Branch of the French Creek, while creating new opportunities for public programming, hands-on involvement from members of the local community, addressing regional water quality objectives, and enhancing floodplain resilience.
“The South Branch of the French Creek is an exceptional waterway, and its 8,370-acre watershed is over 50% permanently protected,” noted Karl Russek, French & Pickering’s Conservation Coordinator. “This presents a tremendous opportunity for thoughtful, targeted restoration work to move the quality of wildlife habitat along the South Branch from ‘good’ to ‘great’. The physical characteristics of this watershed, the percentage of protected land, the potential for significant habitat improvements for key species, and proximity to population centers make this creek watershed an ideal candidate for investment,” added Russek.
While the quality of water in the South Branch of the French Creek is designated as “Exceptional Value Waters” under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s water quality standards program, as the site of Warwick Furnace, a Colonial-era ironworks, the valley has witnessed over 300 years of agricultural and industrial history. As a result, habitat throughout the creek’s corridor has been impaired by sediment, nutrients, and pathogens. Additionally, much of the stream corridor lacks trees, whose roots would stabilize the banks and leaves would replenish the water’s nutrients.
“After decades of hard work preserving over 2,500 acres of land along the South Branch of French Creek, we’re eager to start making thoughtful investments to improve the habitat and natural function along the Creek” noted Bill Gladden, Executive Director of French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust. “We are grateful for the opportunity these funds provide to collaborate with the community around our Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve and partners throughout the region. Working together, we will chart a course for long term improvements not only on our preserve, but for our upstream and downstream neighbors throughout the watershed.”
French & Pickering will work with partner organizations, and county, state, and federal agencies to develop long-term goals for the corridor within the core project area and strategies for improvement. French & Pickering will also collaborate with willing landowners throughout the South Branch watershed to identify opportunities and funding for further restoration along the creek.