Studies & Reports

The Pennsylvania Wilds is a place, and it is the home of a movement to build a sustainable outdoor recreation economy that creates jobs, diversifies local economies, inspires stewardship and improves quality of life in our rural region. This regional strategy is seen as a national model and has been referenced in various reports. In addition, as the PA Wilds Center (the nonprofit tasked with coordinating the regional strategy) grows its stakeholder network it is able to conduct and share its own research on how businesses and organizations are being impacted.

2023 – PA Wilds Rural Innovation Impact National Reports

The Center for Rural PA report “Community and Economic Impact of the Pennsylvania Wilds”

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative agency of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, funded a study that was conducted in 2022 by professors at Pennsylvania Western University in Clarion which looked at the impacts of the Pennsylvania Wilds strategy.  The report states that the study found that “this region is an effective place-based tourism brand. Stakeholder groups of visitors, businesses, and residents recognize the PA Wilds brand attributes of environmental stewardship and economic development. Resident and business stakeholders indicated pride in belonging to the region. These overall positive impacts of the brand indicate that brand management in the PA Wilds is well executed.” The report also offers policy actions that could further facilitate positive economic and community dividends. Read the report


Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group report “Mapping a New Terrain: A Call to Action”

A new tool available to communities looking to grow the outdoor recreation economy was shaped in part by the Pennsylvania Wilds effort. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship was one of 27 organizations to participate in a study for the national report, “Mapping a New Terrain: A Call to Action.” The report details five principles to equitably improve health and economic outcomes for rural communities and Native nations — as well as actionable steps to achieve these principles. Read the report



Appalachian Regional Commission’s “Making Connections for Stronger Businesses and Resilient Communities”

The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship was featured as one of ten case studies in the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)’s evaluation report of business development grants: “Making Connections for Stronger Businesses and Resilient Communities.” The study shows that ARC investments in business development projects, including by the PA Wilds Center, facilitated the creation or retainment of 29,352 jobs and the establishment of 1,944 new businesses in the Appalachian region. Additionally, ARC’s business development grant projects attracted $923 million in private investment to the region, resulting in increased economic opportunity for its 26.3 million residents. Read the report


2022 – PA Wilds Rural Innovation Impact National Reports

Brookings Metro report “Commonwealth of innovation: A policy agenda for revitalizing Pennsylvania’s economic dynamism”

The Pennsylvania Wilds effort is called out as an example of rural innovation and entrepreneurship in “Commonwealth of Innovation,” a report from Brookings Metro about Pennsylvania’s economic future. Published in October 2022, the report highlights some of the projects from the #PAWilds and PA Wilds Center in a section titled “Promoting entrepreneurship in rural Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Wilds” on page 78. Read the report


2021 – PA Wilds Impact National Reports

Destination Stewardship Center’s “Destination Stewardship Report”

The Pennsylvania Wilds and PA Wilds Center are featured in the Summer 2021 issue of the Destination Stewardship Report, as well as Destination Stewardship Center’s “Doing It Better” series, for taking “a holistic approach to destination management.” Read the report


The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Rural Economic Development Toolkit

ORR Rural Economic Development toolkit

This toolkit was developed by The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable in partnership with Oregon State University’s Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative and the National Governors Association Outdoor Recreation Learning Network. It compiles best practices from interviews with dozens of practitioners across the county. The PA Wilds region and PA Wilds Center Founder + CEO Ta Enos is featured in the report. See the toolkit.

Our place-based brand is built around our region’s tremendous public lands and outdoor experiences, maker culture, and rural lifestyle. But we know if we continue to invest in this brand, and this strategy, it brings real economic power to our rural businesses and communities.”

- Ta Enos, PA Wilds Center CEO + Founder

Extending Our Welcome: Trends and Strategies for Tourism in Appalachia

ARC 2021 Tourism Report cover

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), in partnership with University of Tennessee Knoxville and Collective Impact, produced the Extending Our Welcome: Trends and Strategies for Tourism in Appalachia report to look at the history of tourism in Appalachia and make recommendations for communities looking to employ it as an economic strategy. Though the research was conducted prior to COVID-19, many of these findings remain relevant and useful for tourism planning. It features case studies from the PA Wilds, including Straub Brewery in Saint Marys. See the report.

For years, Straub Brewery used their “fiercely independent” motto to support their market region, sponsoring and promoting local artists, chefs, and bands. Around 2015, Straub Brewery began to collaborate with PA Wilds to better align themselves with tourism in the region, while also expanding their market. With St. Marys being in Elk County and part of the Elk country landscape of PA Wilds, more and more tourists are finding their way to the brewery for tours during their trips to see the elk herds. The PA Wilds commitment to regional business and artisans was appealing to Straub, and very much kept with the spirit of Straub’s “fiercely independent” ethic.

- Extending Our Welcome: Trends and Strategies for Tourism in Appalachia


2020 – PA Wilds Center Releases White Paper on COVID-19 Impacts

White Paper on the Early Impacts of COVID-19 on the rural Pennsylvania Wilds Initiative

PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. released its White Paper on the Early Impacts of COVID-19 on the rural Pennsylvania Wilds Initiative in May 2020 to state partners, the region’s county commissioners, state and federal legislators, PREP Network, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and other stakeholder networks. Read the white paper.

The rural Pennsylvania Wilds region (PA Wilds) has taken a huge economic blow to its tourism industry because of the novel coronavirus…. But changing travel trends and positive public sentiment toward many of the core tenets of the PA Wilds strategy — supporting local businesses, the value of the outdoor experience and public lands, stewardship of the environment, creative partnerships — mean the PA Wilds will be in a position to make a strong tourism recovery once the crisis passes. By redoubling our efforts now, partners involved in the PA Wilds can help the region’s communities leverage this moment for a better and more sustainable tomorrow.

- Ta Enos, Founder + CEO, PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc.


2020 – PA Wilds as a Model for Conservation Landscapes

PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) “Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes – Models for Successful Collaboration”

Conservation Landscape ReportThe 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. See the report.

The Pennsylvania Wilds Conservation Landscape (PAWCL) is one of the most ambitious landscape-level initiatives in the United States. 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.

- PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources


2019 – PA Wilds Economic Impact National Reports

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) “Strengthening Economic Resilience in Appalachia”

10 Case Studies in Economic Resilience highlight the PA Wilds & McKean County, Pennsylvania – moving multiple sectors forward for economic development. See the report.

McKean County benefits from the coordinated Pennsylvania Wilds effort, which includes regional planning, community character and natural resource stewardship, public and private investments, operation of a regional value chain of local products and services tied to the regional brand, and a successful marketing campaign.

- ARC Case Studies in Economic Resilience


National Governors Association Report “Rural Prosperity through the Arts & Creative Sector”

The National Governors Association’s report is an action guide that “offers research insights and lessons learned from states that are harnessing the power of the arts to drive rural prosperity.” See the report.

The northwest region of Pennsylvania includes a rural region known as the “Pennsylvania Wilds.” In that region, the Wild’s Cooperative of Pennsylvania
is a program of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship. The Wilds Cooperative is working to develop tourism to increase the exposure of the local artisans.

- Rural Prosperity through the Arts & Creative Sector Report




The annual Economic Impact of Pennsylvania’s Travel and Tourism Industry report by Tourism Economics provides state, regional (including the Pennsylvania Wilds), and county level estimates that demonstrate the vital importance of the travel industry to Pennsylvania’s economy.

2020 Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism in Pennsylvania

2019 Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism in Pennsylvania

Visitor spending grew 2.0% in 2019 to almost $1.85 billion – a new record high — led by relatively strong growth in spending on recreational activities and food & beverages with growth rates of 4.2% and 3.1%, respectively.

- Tourism Economics

2018 Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism in Pennsylvania

2011 Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism in Pennsylvania

2010 Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism in Pennsylvania




National Studies

Early Studies on the Pennsylvania Wilds

Clarion River Recreation Assessment (July 2007)

PA Wilds Artisan Development Plan (March 2007)

PA Wilds Recreation Plan: Executive Summary (May 2006)

A Recreation Plan for the State Parks and State Forests in the Pennsylvania Wilds (February 2006)

Plan for Elk Watching & Nature Tourism in North Central Pennsylvania (2002)