Our Conservation Legacy
The Pennsylvania Wilds is built on a conservation legacy that began more than 100 years ago.
At the dawn of the 20th Century in response to the demands of America’s industrial revolution, the unbroken forests of eastern America were laid to waste. The “Big Cut” stripped much of the northeastern U.S. of its forests by the late 1800s, leaving behind heaps of burning debris, blighted mountain slopes, and sediment-choked streams. Pennsylvania forests were fated as well.
But today, a modern traveler enters north central Pennsylvania to find a magnificent hardwood forest with elk, bear, white-tailed deer, turkey, and bald eagles. A century of conservation investments and efforts, spurred by the leadership of Pennsylvanians such as Gifford Pinchot, Joseph Rothrock, Myra Lloyd Dock, and Maurice Goddard, resurrected these forests and restored the region that has come to be known as the Pennsylvania Wilds.
For nearly a century, these efforts of Pennsylvanians have primarily focused on re-establishing the integrity and diversity of Pennsylvania’s ecosystems. Professionals from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and other resource agencies have spent their entire careers furthering this cause. The effort has been supported by conservation organizations, sportsmen’s clubs, and private landowners.
The Pennsylvania Wilds Initiative was launched to capitalize on these achievements. With 2 million acres of public land, two National Wild & Scenic Rivers, the largest wild elk herd in the Northeast and some of the darkest skies in the world, the Pennsylvania Wilds – the largest block of green between New York City and Chicago — was poised in the 21st Century to become an authentic, premier outdoor recreation destination.
In an unprecedented effort, dozens of federal, state and local stakeholders from the public and private sectors have rallied around this cause. Together, they are marrying conservation and economic development through sustainable nature tourism on the region’s large rural landscape. The effort is creating jobs, diversifying local economies, inspiring stewardship and improving quality of life.
No initiative exists in the country on this scale and level of strategic thinking
The Society of American Travel Writers who bestowed it a prestigious Phoenix Award in 2007.
A decade in, the Pennsylvania Wilds Initiative has now matured into the Pennsylvania Wilds Conservation Landscape, but it is still a young effort in the sweep of the region’s growing conservation legacy. To many – even many Pennsylvanians — the region, and its tremendous conservation story, are still unknown. We hope you’ll help us change that. Our region has an important story to share.
A Recreation Plan for the State Parks and State Forests in the Pennsylvania Wilds, Fermata Inc., 2006
with an update by the PA Wilds Team