Achievements made in the Pennsylvania Wilds, a 13-county region designated as a Conservation Landscape by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, were recently highlighted in a report by the state agency.
DCNR’s 2019 Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes — Models for Successful Collaboration report shares the results of a recent evaluation of the agency’s Conservation Landscape program. The report also highlights landscape efforts and best practices being used to achieve conservation and revitalization goals.
“The Pennsylvania Wilds Conservation Landscape (PAWCL) is one of the most ambitious landscape-level initiatives in the United States,” the report notes, pointing to the rural region’s success in attaining investments to grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem. “This highly impactful practice is most evident in the Pennsylvania Wilds conservation landscape, a very rural place with more public land than anywhere in the state.”
The report, which points to the growing outdoor recreation industry and strategic investments in public lands and facilities in the Pennsylvania Wilds, positions the region as a model for how the Conservation Landscape program is gaining traction and creating real value for communities.
The PA Wilds Center’s work has grown by 900% over the last five years, visitor spending in the region has grown to $1.8 billion annually, and small businesses in the Center’s primary business development network — the Wilds Cooperative of PA — have created 99 jobs over the last two years. In addition, the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania has grown to include more than 300 businesses, artisans and organizations from across the region. Several of the artisans are also seeing economic benefits from selling their products at the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, where 90% of the products sold are regionally made by small businesses — boosting local economies and fostering community pride.
“A big part of our economy and way of life here revolves around our forest and public lands,” says PA Wilds Center founder and CEO Ta Enos. “Our public lands make possible our internationally-acclaimed dark skies and habitat for our world-famous elk. They support the region’s timber, oil, gas and outdoor tourism industries, inspire our vibrant maker culture and are essential to helping our major employers attract and retain talent.
These lands also are the reason for our clean water – and many other people’s too. And, good land and water management is key to the pressing issue of climate resiliency. Through the PAWCL, we finally have a way to connect these dots and defy tired stereotypes you often hear about rural places, the private sector, and government.”
ABOUT CONSERVATION LANDSCAPES
While each Conservation Landscape is unique, the goal of the initiative is to drive strategic investment and actions around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreational projects. A unique approach to regional development based on natural assets and sense of place, the efforts are carried out by external lead partners across eight identified Conservation Landscapes in Pennsylvania. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. is the external lead for the Pennsylvania Wilds Conservation Landscape.
There are a total of eight Conservation Landscapes throughout Pennsylvania, including: Laurel Highlands, Lehigh Valley Greenways, Pennsylvania Wilds, Pocono Forest and Waters, Schuylkill Highlands, South Mountain, Susquehanna Riverlands and Kittatinny Ridge.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn noted that the regional focus and partnership-building approach provided by the Conservation Landscape program is critical for meeting complex environmental challenges.
“We believe that the landscape-scale approach, now more than 15 years in practice, is well positioned to help Pennsylvania tackle the most challenging problems such as watershed protection, and our changing climate and its impacts on infrastructure, wildlife, and health,” Dunn said. “As we strive to accelerate the pace and scale of conservation efforts, a good understanding of what makes landscape efforts successful is critical.”
ABOUT THE PENNSYLVANIA WILDS
The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. For more information on the region, visit www.PAWilds.com.
The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501©3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination and manages the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a business network of over 300 place-based businesses, in an effort to help businesses connect with travelers. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit www.PAWildsCenter.org.