Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Pittsburgh, PA   |


The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy protects and restores exceptional places to provide our region with clean waters and healthy forests, wildlife and natural areas for the benefit of present and future generations. The Conservancy creates green spaces and gardens, contributing to the vitality of our cities and towns, and preserves Fallingwater, a symbol of people living in harmony with nature. Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of charities, has recognized the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as one of the top ten charities in the nation! Over the last decade, we have consistently received exceptional Charity Navigator ratings for financial health, accountability and transparency.

Ruling year info


President/Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Thomas D. Saunders

Main address

800 Waterfront Drive

Pittsburgh, PA 15222 USA

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NTEE code info

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Community, Neighborhood Development, Improvement (S20)

Museum & Museum Activities (A50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

WPC is focused on conserving the special places that make Western Pennsylvania a magnificent region in which to live and visit. From the region's large expanses of mature deciduous forests to the many waterways that originate in our northern counties and flow into the Ohio River, Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, we are conserving important resources to ensure that future generations can experience Western Pennsylvania as we do today.

WPC also works to transform local communities into healthy environments by planting more than 130 flower and vegetable gardens each year, planting and caring for 28,000 shade trees, and implementing green infrastructure projects, such as bioswales and water-capturing tree pits that address critical stormwater management issues in urban areas.

At Fallingwater, arguably Frank Lloyd Wright's most iconic design, we engage people of all ages in public tours, internships, lectures and residency programs to increase understanding of architecture.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Watershed Conservation Program

WPC's Watershed Conservation Program is dedicated to watershed conservation issues and to providing a full range of services to the community. WPC participates in a wide range of grass roots efforts including watershed conservation plans, watershed restoration projects, water quality monitoring, bathymetry initiatives, water trail mapping, algae studies and many other activities.

Population(s) Served

WPC's Community Gardens project encompasses 130 sites in 20 counties. Working with more than 300 groups and more than 12,000 volunteers, WPC sustains sites through funding, design, site preparation, technical assistance and volunteer coordination. In addition to gardens, WPC implements several other approaches to community greening. WPC's Community Gardens and Greenspace Program completed an assessment of greening opportunities in downtown Pittsburgh seven years ago. Since then, we have project-by-project implemented improvements through beautiful planters and hanging baskets, a green wall, tree plantings, and other projects to transform the "hardscape" with plants and flowers. WPC plants trees throughout the Greater Pittsburgh region and has initiated a tree planting project in Downtown Erie as well.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Voted the most important building of the 20th century in a poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects, Fallingwater is Frank Lloyd Wright's masterwork. The "house over the waterfall" was entrusted to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy by Edgar Kaufmann jr. in October, 1963. Included with this generous gift were 500 acres surrounding the beautiful Bear Run Valley. In 2013, more than 160,000 people visited the house and grounds of Fallingwater. As a symbol of living in harmony with nature, Fallingwater offers a wide variety of educational programs for students of all ages and adults. The Bear Run Nature Reserve surrounding Fallingwater, expanded over the years by WPC, now encompasses more than 5,000 acres.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program (PNHP) inventories important plants, animals, and natural communities across Pennsylvania. It is a partnership of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). Data on rare plant and animal species and habitats are collected by PNHP staff and is used by state and federal natural resource agencies for environmental review and also by planning agencies for land-use planning and protection.

Population(s) Served

The beautiful and varied landscapes of Western Pennsylvania range from high plateaus and mountain ridges to vast forests and rich river valleys. These lands and waterways provide bountiful recreational opportunities and support local economies. They also sustain native plants, animals and ecosystems that, in some cases, are found nowhere else on earth. Using science and information as our guide, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has prioritized the landscapes that we seek to conserve in order to maximize the impact of our work. To date, WPC has conserved more than 255, 000 acres in Western Pennsylvania.

Population(s) Served

Where we work


Land Trust Alliance 2012


4 Star Rating 2013

Charity Navigator

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

This year, the Conservancy plans to accomplish the following:

Protect Western Pennsylvania's forests, farmlands, wetlands, and critical habitats.
WPC uses scientific information to identify and prioritize protection areas, allowing us to conserve land with ecological, scenic, agricultural or recreational value. We aim to protect 10 properties this year through acquisition or conservation easements in key regions – the Laurel Highlands, the French Creek watershed, the forests of north-central Pennsylvania and the ridge and valley area east of the Laurel Highlands.

Restore Pennsylvania's waterways for the benefit of the public and aquatic life.
Our watershed conservation initiatives result in cleaner streams throughout this region and focus on addressing abandoned mine drainage, reducing erosion and sediment pollution, and developing detailed watershed conservation plans for communities. This year, we will restore and enhance 10 miles of streams and rivers by stabilizing eroding stream banks, planting streamside trees and native plants and working closely with farmers in priority watersheds to implement best management practices.

Support healthy, livable communities in Western Pennsylvania by planting community gardens, trees and other green spaces.
Working with more than 12,000 volunteers, we will plant 132 community gardens across 20 Western Pennsylvania counties and plant and care for thousands of mature street trees in Pittsburgh and other communities. This work improves our cities and neighborhoods by bringing nature into urban areas and creating living landscapes that capture, absorb, filter and slow the flow of stormwater runoff– before it enters our local waterways.

Monitor and improve WPC-owned properties through our land stewardship program.
With the help of volunteers, we will complete improvement projects on WPC-owned properties, including the beginning stages of adding a hiking trail on a WPC-owned property along the Great Allegheny Passage that overlooks the town of Confluence and the scenic Laurel Highlands and controlling invasive species on Conservancy-owned properties, such as the ecologically important Lake Pleasant in Erie County. We will also continue monitoring efforts on other WPC-owned properties and lands on which we hold conservation easements.

Preserve Fallingwater and educate visitors about the values of living in harmony with nature.
Each year, significant resources are needed to address preservation issues at Fallingwater. A major focus this year is repairing cracks in the concrete in the master bedroom and bathroom and on the poured concrete bolsters that serve as Fallingwater's supports. Through the Fallingwater Institute, we will implement our newly expanded school program that allows teachers to partner with Fallingwater on programs that increase students' understanding of architecture and its connection to the natural world.

All of our efforts are based on a three-year strategic plan that is broken down into measurable goals for each program area. The current strategic plan covered 2015 through 2017, and includes the following:
o Protecting Land: We will protect the exceptional places of Western Pennsylvania for future generations focusing on ecologically significant areas and important forested landscapes, watersheds and agricultural, scenic and recreational lands.
o Caring for Protected Land: We will provide exemplary stewardship of our properties and conservation easements in Western Pennsylvania for their protection in perpetuity. We will manage our properties to protect native plants and wildlife, and for public enjoyment, recreation, and education.
o Preserving and Presenting Fallingwater: We will preserve Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and conserve the site for which it was designed, interpreting the historic, aesthetic, experiential, and social values they represent for present and future generations of the world community.
o Conserving Watersheds: We will conserve and restore priority watersheds of Western Pennsylvania, resulting in improved water quality, in-stream habitats, riparian corridors, and aquatic life.
o Greening Our Communities: We will enhance Western Pennsylvania's cities and towns by implementing high-impact greening projects to promote attractive and healthy environments and livable places, thereby helping to revitalize communities and reduce impact on undeveloped lands and natural resources.
o Guiding Conservation with Science: WPC will provide the highest quality science, data and analysis to guide conservation of Pennsylvania's natural resources.
o Engaging Every Generation: We will communicate the mission and work of WPC to inspire engagement and support across generations.
o Cultivating Our Youth: Recognizing that a sustainable future depends on an engaged and informed youth, we will provide educational activities across program areas using our properties, projects, and staff expertise.
o Embracing Our Community: We are committed to being a diverse and inclusive organization through focused initiatives and partnerships to engage a broad community.
o Informing Public Policy: We will take a leadership role in fostering and promoting sound and responsible public policies by building awareness and engagement of public officials to advance and support conservation and restoration of Western Pennsylvania's exceptional places.
o Addressing Energy Impacts: WPC will work to avoid and minimize impacts from energy development to Pennsylvania's land, water and ecological resources through scientific study, public policy and conservation actions.

The Conservancy has a highly qualified and long-tenured staff. As President and CEO, Thomas D. Saunders has provided sound leadership since 2008. We place a high value on accountability and transparency in all of our activities.

We accomplish our work with the help of more than 12,000 volunteers and partners who help us plant and maintain community gardens and trees, care for our protected properties and ensure that visitors at Fallingwater have an enjoyable experience.

Since our founding in 1932, support from individuals, foundations and corporations has helped the Conservancy become the largest regional conservation organization in Pennsylvania, achieving the following impact:
• Assist in establishing ten state parks and adding acreage to existing state parks, game lands and state forests;
• Protect more than 255,000 acres of land with ecological and recreational values and ensure healthy working forests and farmland, including more than 22,000 acres in the last two years;
• Enhance or restore more than 3,000 stream miles through streamside plantings and in-stream construction projects that reduce erosion, provide habitat for aquatic organisms and protect the quality of the region's drinking water;
• Transform local communities into healthy living environments by planting more than 130 community flower and vegetable gardens each year, planting and caring for 27,000 shade trees, and implementing green infrastructure projects, such as bioswales and water-capturing tree pits that address critical stormwater management issues in urban areas.
• Host more than five million visitors at Fallingwater, including a record 181,000 in 2016, allowing people of all ages to experience the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright and engage them in understanding Fallingwater's history's through a robust education program that includes public tours, internships, lectures and school programs.

With the help of our members, partners and volunteers we will continue to advance our mission to protect Western Pennsylvania's extraordinary places.


Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Board of directors
as of 04/16/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Susan Fitzsimmons

Snavely Forest Products, Inc.

Term: 2017 - 2019

David Barensfeld

Ellwood Group, Inc.

E. Michael Boyle

Derrick Publishing Co.

William Conrad

Stackpole-Hall Foundation

James Finley

Pennsylvania State University

Susan Fitzsimmons

Snavely Forest Products

Dan Frankel

Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Dennis Fredericks


Caryle Glosser

No Affiliation

Stephen Guinn

PSP Metrics

H. Lewis Lobdell

PNC Capital Recovery Corp.

Robert McDowell

No Affiliation

Paul Mooney

No Affiliation

Jean Robinson

No Affiliation

Samuel Smith

Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Alexander Speyer

North Star Coal Company

Kenneth William Stout

Aetna US Healthcare

Timothy Thyreen

Waynesburg College

Joshua Whetzel

Loyalhanna Watershed Association

Carolyn Rizza

Retired Professor, Community Volunteer

Geoffrey Dunn

Surgeon and Community Volunteer

Daniel Nydick

Entrepreneur and Computer Scientist

Michael Polite

Ralph A. Falbo, Inc.

Franklin Blackstone

Partner, law firm of Goehring, Rutter & Boehm

Barbara Bott

Community Volunteer

Felix Fukui

Fukui Architects

Debra Dermody

ReedSmith, LLP

Megan Turnbull

Goehring, Rutter & Boehm

Beverlynn Elliott

Community Volunteer

Carolyn Hendricks

Medical Oncologist

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes