The site is owned and managed by the National Park Service. Contiguous forested lands conserved for public use, conservation, or both include Babcock State Park and Hawk's Nest State Park. The park is bisected by the New River, which was designated as a National Heritage River in 1998.
As identified in the New River Gorge National River (NRGNR) General Management Plan, NRGNR ?lies at the core of a globally significant forest, contains the most diverse flora of any river gorge in central and southern Appalachia, and provides essential habitat for endangered mammals and rare birds and amphibians?. The large contiguous forests provide suitable habitat for interior forest breeding avifauna, many of which are high priority conservation species.
For instance, during field work conducted for the Cerulean Warbler Atlas Project, 90 individual birds were counted at this site, the 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, numerous Neotropical migrants (including various at-risk species) pass through the area in profusion. As part of a larger contiguous forested ecosystem within the Appalachian BCR, the New River Gorge IBA provides important migratory habitat for birds passing through the Appalachian region.
Other important species dependent on the diversity of habitats found within this IBA include Wild Turkey, Barred Owl, woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, wrens, vireos, flycatchers (Great-crested, Acadian, and Eastern Wood Pewee), 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.
This site is recognized by the State of West Virginia IBA program primarily for its significant population of Cerulean Warblers. Additional criteria recognized by the State IBA program include: importance to mixed mesophytic forest avifauna; importance to early successional avifauna species of conservation concern; high concentration of waterfowl; high concentration of migratory landbirds; its "exceptional concentration and/or diversity of bird life relative to surrounding areas"; and for providing "habitat for a wide variety of species, unique species assemblages, or more individuals than most other areas".
(Site included on a list of State Level IBAs provided by Robert Tallman).
New River Gorge is the site of a spring birding festival run by Fayetteville in Fayette Co. It is becoming recognized as one of the premier spring birding sites in the east.
The New River is also the host for the latest attempt to reintroduce peregrine falcons to WV by hacking birds mostly from coastal VA and MD nests. A natural nest has produced young in the past several years. In 2009 the hack site was moved to a new location to deter territorial interactions between returning hacked birds and newly hacked birds.
Conservation concerns and Issues identified by the National Park Service include the following (all of which have implications for avian conservation) :
? Contiguous forest fragmentation (outside of the protected NP lands).
? 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.
? Right-of-ways subject to routine maintenance with herbicides application or mechanically means with no Special Use Permits in place to regulate this activity.
? Invasive Spp. (Japanese knotweed, kudzu, poison ivy, yellowjackets, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese beetles, Gypsy Moth [Lymantria dispar], Emerald Ash Borer [Agrilus planipennis], Hemlock Wooly Adelgid [Adelges tsugae] etc.).
? Solid Waste Management (Trash, debris, and other materials deposited by illegal dumping and storm-generated).
? Hazardous/Regulated Materials (now or former land use practices that have resulted in the release or have high potential for release of hazardous or regulated materials into the park?s environmental media).
? 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 overbrowsing (NPS, 2006)
Hikers and rock climbers disturbing nest sites are potentially an issue for returning Peregrine Falcons.
The area is dominated by upland and riparian forest or woodland. Uplands are generally dry and characterized by steep slopes. Upland forests include, coniferous, deciduous, and mixed communities. Common coniferous forest types in drier areas include the Pitch Pine community and the Hemlock ? Chestnut Oak / Catawba Rhododendron forest association. Common Deciduous forest types in the drier areas include the Oak/Ericad forest association. Mixed forests consist predominantly of the Hemlock ? Chestnut Oak / Catawba Rhododendron forest association. Cold cove forest communities/assocations are found in cooler moister areas. They include the Yellow Birch cold cove forest community and the Hemlock ? Sweet Birch ? Tulip Poplar / Giant Rhododendron forest association.
Forested riparian and bottomland communities consist of Sycamore ? Ash association Riparian Forest; Silver Maple floodplain forest; or floodplain forest vegetated with either a Sycamore ? Ash association or an Oak ? Tulip Poplar / Silverbell association. Bottomland woodlands consist predominantly of Black Willow woodlands.
Riparian Herbaceous communities include Submerged Aquatic Vegetation beds; the Riverscour Prairie community; the Sycamore ? River Birch Riverscour Prairie; and the Riverbank Tall herb community.
The park is also host to the Appalachian Flatrock plant community which includes sedges, cedars and pines growing on flat sandstone ledges along the New River. This community is dependent on the scouring caused by occasional flooding. http://www.nps.gov/neri/naturescience/environmentalfactors.htm