Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in West Virginia

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in West Virginia began in 1993, primarily as a wetland restoration program. In 1998, the Partners Program began assisting with riparian (streamside) restoration efforts throughout the State. The Program now includes woodland restoration and warm-season grass establishment. Fish and wildlife habitats that were once in a degraded state are now providing important cover, food, water and breeding areas for many species.

Habitats of Special Concern
Wetland restoration continues to be a high priority for the Partners Program in West Virginia. While wetland restoration opportunities are limited in West Virginia, riparian and stream restoration potential are very high. There are thousands of miles of streams open to unrestricted livestock grazing and thousands of miles of streambanks and stream channels that are unstable.

Our priorities and approximate costs are:

  • Riparian Habitat - $800/acre and $7,000/mile
  • Wetlands - $1,000/acre
  • Forests - $400/acre
  • Native Warm-season Grasslands - $400/acre
  • In-stream and Streamside - $300,000/mile

Waiting List
A total of 27 projects to restore 1,280acres of wetland, riparian, and upland habitat and 14 miles of streambank are currently awaiting construction.

Lost Habitats
West Virginia is mountainous and nearly 70 percent is forested. Remaining wetlands make up less than one percent of the State and are largely confined to Canaan Valley in Tucker County, Meadow River in Greenbrier County and floodplains statewide. West Virginia has likely lost over half its wetlands to agricultural drainage since European settlement in the 1700s. Urban development continues to reduce wetland acreage statewide.  Native grasslands, though never abundant, have all but been eliminated by European grass varieties, agricultural conversion and forest succession.  Streamside habitats have been lost or degraded by severe flooding, development, agriculture, and dredging. To a lesser extent, woodlands are degraded by livestock grazing.  As a result, fish and wildlife populations that are dependent on these habitats have declined.

Conservation Strategies
Wetlands play an important role in the life support functions of migratory birds that are a trust resource of the Service.  Restoration techniques focus on returning hydrology to formerly drained wetlands as economically as possible: drainage tiles broken and small berms and ditch plugs constructed to block the water from draining the site. Wetland restoration projects are carefully crafted to blend into the landscape and involve such methods as creating microtopography (i.e., little ridges and swales), establishing complexes of small seasonal wetlands, and restoring larger permanent wetlands.

Wetland restoration projects have been concentrated in the vicinities of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the Chesapeake Bay drainage of West Virginia. These areas contain some of the best migratory waterfowl habitat in the State.

Riparian Areas and Streams
Streams and riparian areas support fish, mussels, amphibians and many other species of wildlife enjoyed by West Virginians. Many of our streams and streamside areas have become unstable due to unrestricted livestock grazing.  Others have been repeatedly channelized after flood events, further adding to their instability. Unstable streambanks and stream channels will lead to future flooding problems, poor water quality, and reductions in fish and wildlife populations.

Stream bank fencing is one restoration technique that is cost effective and valued by farm groups and landowners. The West Virginia Partners Program installs fencing to protect streams from livestock. Along with sediment and nutrient reduction in the stream, excellent habitat is provided for both fish and wildlife. The landowner benefits from having a quality fence to use as part of a rotational grazing system that allows the profitable yet wildlife-friendly use of the land.  To date, streambank stabilization efforts have largely utilized bio-engineering techniques such as root wads, “bio-logs,” and re-vegetation.  Efforts to expand the program to include a state-of-the-art approach called “natural channel design” are forthcoming as the special expertise necessary to implement this approach is being acquired by field biologists.  These techniques roughly cost one third of rip-rap channel projects and are a virtually permanent solution. The payoff for West Virginia streams, landowners, and fish and wildlife will be outstanding when this part of the program is implemented.

Upland Forests
Forests provide excellent habitat for neotropical migrant songbirds, threatened and endangered species, and game species. The Partners Program works with landowners to manage livestock access to forests.

Many species of migratory birds need grasslands for nesting. The decline of grasslands in the Northeast is directly correlated with the decline of species such as bobolink and eastern meadowlark.  The Partners Program has worked with several landowners to establish warm-season grass stands.  Some of these stands have been established purely for use by wildlife. Other stands have a dual purpose for grassland bird nesting habitat in the spring and livestock forage in the summer, when cool-season grass pastures are dormant.  Deep-rooted warm-season grasses help in the State’s drought prone regions.

Endangered Species
The Partners Program has worked with the Endangered Species Program to install gates on bat cave entrances so that the bats aren’t disturbed during their winter hibernation. Disturbances during hibernation forces the bats to expend energy reserves needed to get them through the winter.

Farming for Wildlife and Profit
In addition to habitat restoration, the Partners Program also improves the effectiveness of the conservation programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture by providing the technical expertise needed to evaluate which projects are best for fish and wildlife, demonstrating as well as recommending management and restoration techniques and providing data that lets the Federal funds be used most effectively. This relationship combines funding from the Department of Agriculture with the biological expertise of the Partners Program to maximize public benefits.

The Partners Program works with agricultural producers to keep farms both economically and biologically productive.


  • Over 200 landowners have been visited by a Partners Program representative.
  • 86 landowners have had projects completed.
  • 2,162 acres of wetland and riparian habitat have been restored.
  • 45.9 miles of stream bank have been restored.

Future Needs

  • Restore 15,000 acres of riparian habitat and 10,000 acres of forest.
  • Restore 10,000 miles of stream habitat primarily in the upper Potomac River drainage.
  • Restore or enhance 10,000 acres of wetlands.
  • Establish 1,000 acres of warm-season grasses.
  • Work with 2,000 private landowners across West Virginia to improve fish and wildlife habitat on their property.


Contact Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in West Virginia

John Schmidt
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
694 Beverly Pike
Elkins, West Virginia  26241
Phone: (304) 636-6586x16
Fax: (304) 636-7824


Service Area

National Program

Office Locaters

To request additions or corrections to this entry email the Administrator