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.
PA Wilds Steward Program
Stewardship is a core tenet of the PA Wilds region and organization. PA Wilds Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to marry conservation and economic development in a way that strengthens and inspires communities of the PA Wilds, is committed to integrating stewardship programming into its other entrepreneurial activities. Housing the various stewardship activities at the PA Wilds Center is the PA Wilds Steward Program.
PA Wilds Leave No Trace Initiative
The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship and Leave No Trace are developing a partnership to promote sustainable tourism practices across the 13-county Pennsylvania Wilds region, which is explored by millions of visitors each year. Through this new partnership with Leave No Trace, the PA Wilds Center is dedicating even more focus on stewardship principles that will help people exploring the rural region do so more safely and with fewer environmental impacts.
Leave No Trace research shows that people form lasting connections with nature when they understand how to protect it. The partnership with PA Wilds Center will build a program that ensures both visitors and residents are equipped with Leave No Trace environmental and sustainability information and skills to use when they enjoy the iconic natural landscapes in the PA Wilds.
In addition to building out even more targeted messaging for visitors on its own platforms, PA Wilds Center is developing a PA Wilds Leave No Trace Initiative for members of the network it manages, The Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, which currently includes nearly 500 businesses, nonprofits and communities. Through this associate partner program, members of the Wilds Cooperative (which is free to join) will be able to become PA Wilds Leave No Trace Partners and gain access to branding tools and educational resources. They can then utilize those tools and resources to help their own audiences understand the importance of practicing Leave No Trace while enjoying the PA Wilds. There will also be training opportunities for members as well as public lands managers in the PA Wilds.
PA Wilds Charity Checkout for Conservation
Launched in August 2019, the Charity Checkout for Conservation campaign allows people to make donations to support state parks and state forests in the Pennsylvania Wilds when shopping at the PA Wilds Conservation Shop or on the PA Wilds Marketplace. It is operated in partnership with the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF), a statewide nonprofit that seeks to inspire stewardship of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests through public engagement in volunteerism, education and recreation. Patrons to the brick-and-mortar PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park or Leonard Harrison State Park, or those who shop on the PA Wilds Marketplace at www.ShopThePAWilds.com, are able to choose the amount they would like to donate. All proceeds are donated to the PPFF to reinvest in the 29 state parks and eight state forests that fall inside the borders of the Pennsylvania Wilds. Learn more here.
PA Wilds Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship
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.
The Design Guide is a voluntary planning document that highlights how communities in the Pennsylvania Wilds can protect or enhance their unique community character as they grow – whether that growth is due to tourism, other economic development planning, resource extraction or other industries.
Learn more and download the full Design Guide, or sections of it, here.
Other Stewardship Activities
Here are other 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 platform and program, include "stewardship of the land" as a guiding value and include many references to the 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 its PA Wilds Champion Awards program.
- 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. The collaboration also extends to 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 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 the majority of its 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 geared toward residents and travelers to benefit the region’s public lands.