Located 13 miles east of Morgantown and 8 miles west of Bruceton Mills the 12,713 acre Coopers Rock State Forest lies within Preston and Monongalia Counties within the largely forested Cheat River watershed. The forest is bisected by Interstate 68.
Coopers Rock State forest serves multiple uses. The portion south of I-68 contains the main recreational areas and a mountain bald with a scenic overlook. As a West Virginia state forest, its designated uses include land for forestry research, timber management, and watershed and wildlife protection.
During field work conducted for the Cerulean Warbler Atlas Project, 23 individual birds were counted at this site, the 8th highest number for all West Virginia sites surveyed during the atlas project (Rosenberg et al. 2000). Therefore this IBA meets the A1 criteria of a Globally Significant IBA due to the value of the breeding habitat for this globally important species.
During southbound (Autumn) and northbound (Spring) migration, Neotropical migrants pass through the area in profusion.
Other important species dependent on the diversity of habitats found within this IBA include Wild Turkey, Barred Owl, woodpeckers, flycatchers (Great-crested, Acadian, and Eastern Wood Pewee); White-breasted Nuthatches, wrens, vireos, Wood Thrush, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a variety of warblers. A suite of at-risk Neotropical migrants pass through the area during northbound and southbound migrations. In fact, the site is known for exceptional concentration and/or diversity of bird life relative to surrounding areas, supporting species assemblages dependent on rare or unique habitat types or natural communities within the state (ridge top barrens), or exceptional, or representative example (large contiguous forest block) of other habitat. With these attributes, Coopers Rock State Forest has met one or more criteria of the West Virginia State IBA program as well (Included on a list of State IBA sites provided by Robert Tallman).
Threats identified for the region which are also applicable to the IBA include the following
? Lack of wildlife ecology data. Baseline data (presence/absence) currently is being collected via cooperative ventures with academia and NGOs. Population level data is not available for many species of conservation concern. Lack of a State Endangered Species Act.
? Invasive Spp. (Japanese knotweed, kudzu, poison ivy, yellowjackets, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese beetles, Gypsy Moth [Lymantria dispar], Emerald Ash Borer [Agrilus planipennis], etc.).
? Solid Waste Management (Trash, debris, and other materials deposited by illegal dumping).
? Air Quality impacts associated with automobiles, fires, construction generated dust, and stationary sources within the highly industrial Kanawha Valley that emit more than 100 tons per year of priority pollutants into the park?s airshed.
? Deer overgrazing
The site is owned by the State of West Virginia and is managed cooperatively by WV State Parks and the WV Division of Forestry. As such the site is used for timber management, recreation, and scientific research.
The predominant habitat within the IBA consists of mesic deciduous forested slopes which are vegetated in one or more of the following associations in the region: Sugar Maple/Beech/Yellow Birch; Cherry/Ash/Yellow Poplar; or Yellow Poplar/Northern Red Oak/White Oak. Dry ridge top habitats are also prominent dominated by Chestnut/Black Oak/Scarlet Oak associations. A 6-acre man-made pond was created via the damming of a local drainage. Open canopy forest areas support dense shrub layers dominated by mountain laurel and rhododendron.
Accommodations within the State Forest include 25 camp sites and a gift shop. There is a 6 acre lake on the site which provides fishing opportunity outside of the IBA. The site is also notable for its historical interest. Hiking trails provide access into forested areas of the park and thus access to the IBA for hikers, birdwatchers, and nature enthusiasts.
To the north of Interstate 68, the forest land is leased by the West Virginia University (WVU) Division of Forestry for forestry research, teaching, and demonstration of forestry management. This area is referred to as the WVU Forest.