In its first iteration, the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape (LHCL) was defined by three sub-landscapes: the Chestnut, Allegheny, and Laurel Ridges.
The geographic identification provided a framework on which the LHCL’s projects were defined and organized since PEC became the external lead to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) nearly a decade ago.
But recently, the LHCL transitioned from a geographically-based initiative to one that is focused on strategic issue-areas as a means to build collaboration and accomplish goals from a region-wide perspective.
Five working committees — Tourism and Outdoor Recreation, Land Conservation, Water Resources, Trails, and Infrastructure — are at the core of the LHCL today.
- The Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee is eager to improve the overall visitor experience in Donegal — a major entry point to the Laurel Highlands — with the addition of a visitor center. PEC brings a big-picture perspective to this concept and is positioned to incorporate and balance the needs of destination, outdoor recreation, conservation, community, and business interests. PEC is currently seeking funding for the study.
- The Land Conservation Committee is nearly finished with a GIS map to identify priority parcels for conservation of both natural resources and view sheds. Lands adjacent to, or near, existing parks are given high priority to preserve and expand the outdoor experience and strengthen the resource conservation and protection effort throughout the Landscape.
- PEC launched the first Water Resources Committee in December 2015 which immediately coalesced around a project that will impact water resource protection across the LHCL. Working collaboratively, the committee submitted a grant request to DCNR in April to conduct a natural resource economic impact study designed to do a cost-benefit analysis of protecting or restoring water resources. This study, which will be transferable across the Commonwealth, will place a clear economic value on clean water and the economic losses incurred when water is not protected or restored. The study will also generate a matrix of priority water protection projects based on the River Conservation Plans that exist within the Landscape.
- The 2016 Laurel Highlands Trails Summit is scheduled for Sept. 20, 2016 in Meyersdale, Pa. The Trails Committee is in the final planning stages for this workshop designed for both volunteers and professionals in the trail development and management sector. David Brickly, President/CEO of the September 11 National Memorial Trail Alliance, will provide the keynote speech, discussing the regional impacts of the 911 Trail. The afternoon will be capped with mobile workshops.
- From building repair to improved cellular service, the Infrastructure Committee is addressing issues that affect many aspects of outdoor recreation and commerce in the Conservation Landscape.