Conservancy touts efforts

The West Virginia State Director for the Nature Conservancy enlightened members of the Elkins Rotary Club Monday about local areas the group has helped protect.

Rodney Bartgis, who joined the organization in 1994, initially worked on land conservation. In 2003, he was named the state director for the West Virginia Nature Conservancy, and oversees conservation, fundraising and government relations functions. He grew up in Berkeley County.

“The Nature Conservancy is the largest conservation organization in not only West Virginia, but in the United States and around the globe,” Bartgis said. “In West Virginia, we have between 4,000 to 5,000 members, and more than 1 million members world-wide.”

Bartgis said the Nature Conservancy is a collaborative agency that uses good science practices to solve problems in each state and 30 countries. In West Virginia, the Nature Conservancy is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia started in 1963 with a group of volunteers, most of whom were associated with West Virginia University,” Bartgis said. “An early project was the Cranesville Swamp. The West Virginia and Maryland state lines dissect the swamp, which features many beautiful orchids and sundews, that are carnivorous plants.”

Bartgis described other well-known conserved spots in West Virginia including Smoke Hole, where there are 900 year-old cedar trees still growing and unusual white cedar trees. Dolly Sods, one of West Virginia’s most famous natural places, has wild blueberries.

“Mount Point Crayon has the finest spruce forest, where a waterfall plunges into a cave,” Bartgis said. “Representatives from the Smithsonian explored the cave where they found rare bats and the skeleton of an elk and bison.”

School groups are always exploring the Bear Rock Preserve, which is always popular with birders.

“There is also a banding station at Bear Rock,” Bartgis said.

Bartgis said we take so much of the beauty of West Virginia for granted.

“We live in some place special,” Bartgis said. “We need to be sure these spots remain sustainable for the future generations.”