West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle

The fastest-growing region of West Virginia, the Eastern Panhandle also contains two of the most pristine major tributary watersheds of the Potomac River—source of drinking water for millions and a critical source of freshwater to the Chesapeake Bay.

Key to the region’s ecology is the health of its wildlife habitat. However, climate change poses a real threat to rare plant and animal communities living there. The brook trout—Virginia’s state fish—is clinging to survival in cold mountain streams, while mountaintop red spruce forests are also in profound danger. If warming reaches certain levels, these habitats—and the species they harbor—may have nowhere to go.

As one of four focus areas for our Resilient Landscapes Fund, most of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle scores above-average for resilience. A full 60 percent of the land is a “natural stronghold” that can facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change, and lessen the impact of droughts and floods on human communities. 

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