ASWP Announces $1.17 Million NRCS Award

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania has been awarded a $1.17 million award from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) 2019 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Audubon will collaborate with five partners to protect and improve water quality and habitat in Buffalo Creek, a high-quality watershed and Important Bird Area in Allegheny, Butler, and Armstrong Counties.

Total award: $1,169,618

Project Partners: American Chestnut Foundation – PA; Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Duquesne University; Western Pennsylvania Conservancy; Butler County Conservation District; Armstrong Conservation District; and Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania

Project funding will be split amongst the project partners. The final result will be 1,000 acres of improved land and cleaner water and over 120 acres of preserved farmland, right here in
southwestern Pennsylvania. Because 98% of the watershed is privately-owned land, an integral part of the plan includes engaging landowners in conservation planning—assisting them in implementing best management practices that improve the land, water, and air in the watershed.

Project partners collectively leveraged funds from each organization’s conservation and outreach efforts to meet NRCS’s required matching requirements. The total value of work that will be completed over five years is approximately $2.34 million.

“Audubon has a long history of conservation in the watershed, which includes our Todd Nature Reserve in Sarver, PA,” says Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania’s executive director, Jim Bonner. “We are excited to work alongside local partners to build upon our efforts to monitor and maintain clean waterways and forests for the region’s people, birds, and animals.” Earlier this year, Audubon launched the Buffalo Creek Watershed Coalition. And in the past 10 years, Audubon has created two watershed conservation plans—one unveiled just this year after public input—for Buffalo Creek.

Additionally, The watershed is an Important Bird Area, home to many bird species of conservation concern such as the Louisiana Waterthrush, Wood Thrush, and Scarlet Tanager. In addition to birds, the Eastern Hellbender, Indiana Bat, and Massasauga Rattlesnakes are also found in the watershed. The award will provide funding for Hellbenders and freshwater mussel surveys in the creek, as well as for planting acres of native Chestnut trees.

Audubon sincerely thanks RCPP and its partners in this project for the opportunity to begin this exciting project that will positively impact this Important Bird Area.

From the Project Partners:

The Armstrong Conservation District: “The Armstrong Conservation District is proud to partner with Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, The American Chestnut Foundation, and the Butler Conservation District to deliver high quality conservation programs and projects to our cooperators and landowners in the Buffalo Creek Watershed.” District Manager Dave Rupert states, “this partnership among our neighboring Butler Conservation District and two other highly respected non-governmental organizations is something that we have discussed for years and is now going to be a reality.”

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy: “Th Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is pleased to partner with Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania and Buffalo Creek Watershed Conservation Alliance to do streambank restoration projects and aquatic surveys focused on at-risk species in the Buffalo Creek watershed in Armstrong and Butler counties. The Regional
Conservation Partnership Program grant will support WPC’s and other project partners’ work with private landowners throughout the watershed to improve water quality and forest and aquatic habitats. These projects will increase conservation practices on private lands,” says Tye Desiderio, a WPC watershed specialist. 

The American Chestnut Foundation: “The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) is proud to support the restoration and conservation work of Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania by providing American chestnut seedlings for planting. The upland installation of American chestnuts will help return a foundational tree species to the area, providing a multitude of habitat and ecosystem services including diversification of leaf litter nutrition, soil stabilization, and eventually, production of hard mast for wildlife of the Buffalo Creek Watershed,” states TACF’s Sara Fitzsimmons.

Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Duquesne University: "We are pleased to be a cooperating partner on the Buffalo Creek Watershed Conservation Alliance Project" said Dr. Brady Porter, Associate Professor with the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Duquesne University. "We are happy to contribute expertise in water quality monitoring, electrofishing surveys and eDNA analyses of sites throughout the Buffalo Creek system, working closely with Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania and all our additional sponsors, for their generous support of this extensive conservation effort.”

About the Regional Conservation Partnership Program:

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination of NRCS conservation activities with partners that offer value-added contributions to expand our collective ability to address on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns. Through RCPP, NRCS seeks to co-invest with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes tied to the resource concerns they seek to address.

About Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania:

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania connects the people of southwestern Pennsylvania to birds and nature through our programs, projects, and places. Learn more by visiting