Environmental Quality Protection, Beautification

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


President/Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Thomas D. Saunders

Main Address

800 Waterfront Drive

Pittsburgh, PA 15222 USA


conservation; Fallingwater; community greening; gardens; WPC; rivers; land; environment





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

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 + Results

What we aim to solve

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

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Watershed Conservation Program

Community Gardens and Greenspace


Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program

Land Conservation and Stewardship

Where we work

Charting Impact

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

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.

In order to assess progress toward our strategic goals, the Conservancy holds quarterly update meetings that are attended by all senior staff. We walk through each strategic initiative and report on quantifiable goals, such as number of acres conserved or number of stream miles stabilized.

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.

External Reviews


Land Trust Alliance 2012


4 Star Rating 2013

Charity Navigator



Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

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

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


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?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

Not Applicable