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​ Conservation Landscapes

Throughout Pennsylvania, eight large regions are working together to drive strategic investment and actions around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreational projects.

Known as conservation landscapes, these collaborations are found in regions where there are strong natural assets, local readiness and buy-in, and state-level investment and support.

Founded on the regions’ sense of place and resource values, conservation landscapes motivate citizens and elected officials to take on the challenge of effective land use planning, investment, civic engagement, and revitalization.

What Makes a Region a Conservation Landscape?

Driven by the values of conservation, sustainability, and community revitalization, conservation landscapes are built on several ingredients:

  • Presence of DCNR-owned lands -- Large blocks of state parks and forests provide the foundation for the landscape and a staffing presence

  • Sense of place -- Regions with a sense of place and identity in many cases are based on shared landscape not political boundaries

  • Readiness -- Often driven by opportunity or threats such as changes in the economic base, depopulation, or sprawl

  • Engagement -- Civic engagement process that brings people of the region together to identify common values and concerns

  • Strategic investments -- State agencies with regional and statewide partners provide high-level leadership, financial support, and technical assistance to build better communities, to conserve identified values and to invest in “sustainable” economic development

Models of Successful Collaboration

Since 2004, Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscape Program has been using place-based partnerships to drive strategic investments and actions around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreation projects.

In 2019, DCNR had an independent evaluation of the program conducted to better understand the:

  • Impact it is having
  • Identify best practices
  • Recommend ways for improving and sustaining it

The report, 2019 Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes -- Models for Successful Collaboration (PDF), shares the results and best practices, and makes some recommendations to strengthen the program and position it to tackle landscape-scale conservation challenges.

Conservation Landscapes in Pennsylvania

There are currently eight conservation landscape partnerships within Pennsylvania:​​

  • Kittatinny Ridge -- Conserving a critical natural asset that provides important habitat for wildlife, clean water, and extensive recreational opportunities

  • Laurel Highlands -- Conserving and promoting the recreational and cultural aspects of an area in southwestern Pennsylvania defined by three Allegheny Plateau ridges and portions of several watersheds

  • Lehigh Valley Greenways -- Using greenways and trails to connect natural and cultural resources in Lehigh and Northampton counties

  • Pennsylvania Wilds -- Heralding the significant outdoor experiences and rural community character found in a 12-county region in northcentral and northwestern Pennsylvania

  • Poconos Forests and Waters -- Focusing on land protection and history in two distinct areas in Pike, Monroe, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wayne, and Carbon counties

  • Schuylkill Highlands -- Protecting trails and lands in some of the state’s most populated communities in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lebanon, Lancaster, Lehigh, and Montgomery counties

  • South Mountain -- Highlighting the natural, aesthetic, historic, cultural, community, agricultural, and recreational resources in southcentral Pennsylvania

  • Susquehanna Riverlands -- Conserving the greenway corridor of river lands along the Susquehanna River in Lancaster and York counties