Since 1988, ecologists from the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program (PNHP) have been conducting County Natural Heritage Inventories (CNHI) across the Commonwealth, progressing county by county. The recent completion of the Armstrong and Venango CNHIs represent a significant step towards having a full, statewide assessment of unique natural areas important for conservation. The focus of the CNHIs is to gather information on rare, threatened, and endangered plants, animals and unique natural communities, and then convey that information to various entities involved in conservation planning. Beginning in 2007, ecologists from the PNHP scoured databases, museum specimens, literature and highquality aerial photography to prioritize areas in Armstrong and Venango counties for on-the-ground biological surveys. For two years, PNHP staff focused on re-verifying that older records of rare, threatened or endangered plants and animals were still present, and also searched for new occurrences of species of concern.
A total of 113 Biological Diversity Areas (BDAs) and three Landscape Conservation Areas (LCAs) were delineated for Armstrong and Venango counties. BDAs contain plants or animals of special concern, exemplary natural communities, or exceptional native diversity. LCAs are large areas of land that are important because of their size, habitats or presence of one or more BDAs.Within the Armstrong and Venango CNHIs, the features that standout as the most important to the conservation of rare, threatened and endangered species and unique natural communities are French Creek and the un-dammed sections of the Allegheny River. In addition to housing myriad species considered imperiled at the state or global level, these large waterways are some of the most biologically diverse examples of aquatic habitats remaining in the northeastern United States.
Armstrong and Venango counties contain
populations of many different species of concern,
including 4 different mammals of concern, 6 birds, 12
amphibians and reptiles, 16 fish, 21 freshwater mussels,
16 insects, 23 plants, as well as 6 rare natural
communities. Some of these species are rare at the
state level and more common elsewhere in their range,