Donations to land trust protect Ohio River islands

Will be essential habitat for fish, animals

PARKERSBURG — Two islands in the Ohio River have been donated to the West Virginia Land Trust, a statewide conservation organization, and will be protected as an essential habitat for fish, mussels, birds and other animals for years to come.

“The acquisition of islands in the Ohio River is an exciting opportunity from not only the perspective of protecting critical habitats of a big river system, but also for the people and communities along one of the major waterways of the country,” said Brent Bailey, the trust executive director. “We’re grateful to the donors of these properties for their interest in ensuring that the public will benefit from these unique tracts.”

The city of Gallipolis and a private landowner, Michael Hoeft, from Milton, W.Va., donated to the land trust a share of Gallipolis Island in Mason County, W.Va. Hoeft also donated Upper Twin Island in Ohio County, W.Va.

According to the land trust, the islands will be managed for fish and wildlife habitat and public recreation.

“There is a variety of structure and habitat there,” said Patty Morrison, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist at the nearby Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. “Submerged logs and stumps, aquatic vegetation, occasional boulders, gravel and sand with scattered cobble– these underwater features all provide habitat for an amazing diversity of native fish and mussels,” she said.

According to the agency, islands also provide beneficial habitat for numerous other wildlife, such as migratory birds and waterfowl, reptiles and amphibians, owls and bats, and other animals.

In addition to the donors, the land trust worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and West Virginia University’s Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic to protect the properties.