Governor Tom Wolf delivered his final budget address, outlining his vision for a generational investment in education and to raise wages, attract innovative industries, and create good jobs that will make Pennsylvania an even better place to live and work.
The proposal provides additional support for DCNR’s conservation and recreation mission. Governor Wolf’s proposed DCNR budget total from all revenue sources is $638 million -- which is up about $162 million.
The proposal includes an additional 31 staff positions and provides the ability to accept and spend $135 million in recovery funds as part of the envisioned Growing Greener III.
The proposed increase in funding would allow DCNR to improve recreation experiences and address critical conservation needs, including clean water projects and mitigating climate change.
Strengthening Safe Recreation for All
As part of the work to make Pennsylvania a leader in outdoor recreation, new positions and funding will help DCNR strengthen its core operations to respond to unprecedented participation in outdoor recreation and a surge in visitations, and increased demands to uphold public safety and resource protection.
This work will include building the needed staff capacity and equipment to develop and maintain new and existing ATV trails and recreational areas; and adding rangers who will work on a landscape scale to improve public safety.
Increasing Climate Resiliency
As Pennsylvania’s conservation leader, DCNR is acting to ensure a commonwealth that is resilient to a changing climate. The budget proposal would support:
- Safe and Climate Resilient Infrastructure: Hiring additional staff in electrical, civil, and stormwater engineering to ensure adequate capacity in maintaining and improving the agency’s infrastructure, for public safety, climate resiliency, and increased use and demand.
- Carbon Capture and Storage: Adding staff to the Bureau of Geological Survey to advance carbon capture and storage and assist the commonwealth in leveraging federal funding opportunities.
- Forest Pests: An additional $5 million to combat invasive pests, most of which do better in a warmer climate and impact species that are already vulnerable due to climate change.
Expanding Operational Capacity
DCNR requires additional capacity to support existing operations and initiatives, including an ever-growing outdoor recreation economy; building on the success of our workforce initiatives; and managing commonwealth natural, cultural, and historical resources.
This would include:
- A GIS specialist in the Bureau of State Parks.
- Two staff to support the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps that is training a new generation of conservation stewards and leaders, as well as helping to diversify the commonwealth’s workforce.
- A second professional position to aid in the implementation of the cultural resources program for DCNR.
Addressing Infrastructure Needs and Resource Protections
Governor Wolf’s proposal is to invest $450 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for a new round of enhanced Growing Greener funding -- $135 million is proposed for DCNR.
This initiative builds on more than 20 years of Growing Greener conservation, neighborhood parks, and recreation support; and clean water projects across Pennsylvania, including within the Chesapeake Bay. It includes investments to:
- Reduce the maintenance backlog in state parks and forests
- Protect open space
- Increase rural and urban forest canopy
- Provide funds for recreational trails and local parks
- Clean up abandoned mines and restore watersheds
- Support farmers in their efforts to protect soil and water resources
- Increase the number of farmland preservation projects
- Help communities address land use
- Provide new and upgraded water and sewer systems
State Park and Forest Infrastructure Needs
The millions of acres of state parks and forests include thousands of buildings, such as visitor centers, cabins, and bathrooms; roads and trails; dams; and natural resources like lakes, wetlands, and trees.
Several hundred long-term repair and improvement projects of many types -- from as small as $100,000 to as high as several million dollars -- are on a project list that totals more than $1.4 billion.
There are 148 bridges out of more than 900 on DCNR lands that are rated as “poor” -- the same rating that was given to the bridge that collapsed recently in the Pittsburgh area.
The department continues to expand practices that save money and improve efficiencies, like:
- Energy efficiency measures and sustainable landscape management
- Roads, bridges, trails, and culverts that can withstand flooding
- Attracting outside and federal funding for best practices
- Encouraging volunteers
Reliable and adequate investments are needed to ensure state parks and forests support healthy ecosystems and habitat that can be enjoyed by all Pennsylvanians.
Closing Trail Gaps
Trails are critical public infrastructure, as was made clear during the pandemic. With more than 12,000 miles of trails, Pennsylvania offers lots of opportunities for taking a walk, paddle, or ride.
A top goal of DCNR and partners is to close priority trail gaps in Pennsylvania’s statewide land and water trail network -- with the overall goal of having a trail within 10 minutes of every Pennsylvanian.
Pennsylvania has 112 identified priority trail gaps, including 200 miles of trails and 62 bridge projects, that need about $200 million to complete all.
The General Assembly will now consider the Governor’s budget proposal. DCNR has a Senate budget hearing on Wednesday, March 2. Pennsylvania’s fiscal year begins on Friday, July 1.
Find more information about Governor Wolf’s budget at the Office of Budget website.