The Pennsylvania Wilds is blessed with more public land than Yellowstone National Park, some 16,000 miles of public waterways and tremendous wildlife. But it wasn’t always this way. At one point at the turn of the century, large swaths of our landscape were so cut over, people abandoned the land and laughed when the government started to buy it up to build state and national forests. Fires and flooding raged. Our now famous elk went extinct. Whitetail deer nearly suffered the same fate.
100 years of conservation and sustainable forestry practices have restored the Pennsylvania Wilds to what it is today. Here, stewardship is not just a buzzword or a one-time thing. It is a way of life. Here are practical ways PA Wilds Center invests in stewardship of the region’s natural resources and environment:
- The PA Wilds region is one of seven Conservation Landscapes in PA because of its unique natural resources. PA Wilds Center works closely with the PA Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources to coordinate activities by the many local partners involved in the Conservation Landscape work, which aims to grow nature and heritage tourism in the region in a way that creates jobs, diversifies local economies, inspires stewardship and improves quality of life.
- PA Wilds Center’s Brand Principles, which guide PA Wilds logo and brand use across every platforms and program, include ‘stewardship of the land’ as a guiding value and include many references to importance of cultivating a healthy relationship between people and the environment.
- PA Wilds Center’s two main stakeholder groups (Planning Team and Marketing Team) and its larger working networks include robust participation by public lands, game and waterways managers, as well as Conservation Districts and conservancy groups.
- Most of the Pennsylvania Wilds is a big working forest, so PA Wilds Center works closely with foresters from the public and private sectors to help the traveling public understand sustainable forestry practices.
- PA Wilds Center invests staff resources and advertising dollars annually to tell the region’s conservation story and promote pawilds.com/stewardship to encourage the traveling public to engage in stewardship events in the region.
- PA Wilds Center annually recognizes outstanding local Conservation/Stewardship efforts through it PA Wilds Champion Awards program.
- PA Wilds Center promotes the protection of scenic view sheds, energy efficient building designs and other stewardship actions in the PA Wilds Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship.
- PA Wilds Center collaborates regularly with West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund to raise awareness about the difference energy-efficient technologies can have on the environment and an organization’s bottom line, and the financing and grant programs this nonprofit provides in many communities in the Pennsylvania Wilds to tackle such projects.
- PA Wilds Center, through actions of its PA Wilds Planning Team, has financially supported studies looking at carrying capacity around major tourism assets. Staff are also in a regular conversation with public lands managers about ways to mitigate carrying capacity issues.
- PA Wilds Center is a Leave No Trace Partner
- Starting in 2018, PA Wilds Center will collect data on how much businesses in The Wilds Cooperative of PA (the Center’s core business development program) donate annually to conservation causes.
- PA Wilds Center partners regularly with the Conservation Fund to share best practices with other communities around the country working on similar landscape-level natural resource based economic development strategies.
- For its PA Wilds Conservation Shop online store and physical gift shops, PA Wilds Center sources all products locally from The Wilds Cooperative of PA, which helps reduce the energy footprint of this product supply line while having a huge ripple effect on the rural economy by keeping more dollars local longer.
- PA Wilds Center is striving to develop an annual giving campaign by 2022 geared toward residents and travelers to benefit the region’s public lands.