Multiple government agencies are working on an initiative that spans the state and explores and implements partnerships and programs that protect natural and cultural resources to enhance their respective region’s economic viability. As a result, the state’s Conservation Landscape Initiative
(CLI), a joint effort by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
that engages communities local partners with state agencies and potential funders, quite possibly could be a national model.
That's especially evident in Adams, Cumberland, Franklin and York counties, where the South Mountain CLI, one of seven in PA, has enlisted the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, among others, to encourage economic growth that will revitalize and protect local communities with an abundance of recreation and heritage tourism opportunities.
The South Mountain CLI
, at the northern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains, encompasses 400,000 acres and nearby communities like Gettysburg, Chambersburg and Carlisle, and was born when a housing development threatened to overtake 800 acres adjacent to the Appalachian Trail.
“These four counties we work in have some of the highest rates of development in the state,” says Kim Williams, the external project lead and landscape projection coordinator for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Mid-Atlantic regional office.
“As a partnership, we’re working to protect their assets through tourism, whether they be agricultural or heritage-oriented. There’s a strong link between agriculture and how it buffers the state forest.”
The South Mountain CLI awarded nearly $50,000 in mini-grants in the fall to conservation, heritage and economic development projects. The partnership will host a summit on Feb. 19 at Penn Township Fire Hall in Newville, Cumberland County, featuring guest speakers, including DCNR secretary John Quigley, to discuss the innovative model of conservation and preservation of sense of place on the local and state scales.
Among the CLI’s efforts: purchasing land, promoting agriculture-related entrepreneurs and the Appalachian Trail through a GPS system, identifying funding partners and education outreach.
“We hosted a meeting two years ago in Adams County and a third-generation farmer said if farming were profitable we wouldn’t have this meeting,” Says Mike Eschenmann, the DCNR lead and head of its community recreation partnerships section. “That had an impact on me, to think about his livelihood. He doesn’t want to sell his land. He wants to keep farming but it needs to be profitable.
”Source: Kim Williams, Appalachian Trail Conservancy; Mike Eschenmann, PA DCNRWriter: Joe Petrucci