Black bears, bobcats, bats and large-flowered Barbara’s Buttons are just some of the fauna and flowers you’ll find in the area. The endangered Indiana bat calls Cheat Canyon home, and it is the only place on Earth where one can find the flat-spired three-toothed snail, also called the Cheat threetooth. One of the world’s rarest land snails, it’s categorized as “threatened” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The canyon affords many opportunities for recreation: rafters and kayakers tackle the class III-IV rapids of the Cheat River while anglers lure smallmouth bass. Hunters track deer, turkey and bears, while hikers and birdwatchers explore the surrounding wilderness. “The Cheat is our playground!” says local resident Amanda Pitzer.

A Long-Awaited Victory

Attempts over the years to save the Cheat stalled, but the community continued to rally for its protection. In 2014, the Fund, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, purchased 3,800 acres of forestland, cave and riverbank along a seven mile stretch of the Cheat River. More than $7 million was raised for the project through a variety of public and private sources, including gifts to The Nature Conservancy, public grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and the West Virginia Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund, and mitigation dollars.

Over the next few years, a large portion of the land will be transferred to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and managed as part of the complex of public recreation lands on the lower Cheat River. When the project is complete, almost all of the remaining Canyon that has not yet been preserved as part of Cooper’s Rock State Forest and Snake Hill Wildlife Management Area will be conserved.

Why This Project Matters

Successful landscape-level conservation depends on the strength of partners. By leveraging resources and working together, we can save treasured places like Cheat Canyon. Protecting this area will maintain the incredible scenery and array of wildlife, and provide access for recreational activities to a greater public.

“This is exciting news for the Mountain State. Through this partnership, thousands of acres along the Cheat River will be opened for public recreation—providing new opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.”
—West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin

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