Over 85 people turned out for the inaugural meeting of the new Laurel Highlands Conservation Coalition, a spin-off of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative. Land conservancies, watersheds, Trout Unlimited chapters and other conservation and recreation groups turned out for the day-long program held September 30 at Ligonier Town Hall. The group decided to meet twice a year.
The coalition was formed to provide a regular forum for large-scale conservation issues, make the funding pie bigger, advocate policy, get the “conservation message” out to a broader audience and network. After discussing the reasons to form the coalition, the program included presentations on:
- Renew Growing Greener – Andrew Heath’s powerpoint presentation and draft ordinances of support are available at www.pecpa.org/Laurel_Highlands/.
- The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission. Chuck Duritsa, a retired DEP official and current ORSANCO board member, said the Commission deals only with water quality in the Ohio River mainstem while the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and Delaware River Basin Commission have much more authority. Duritsa encouraged people to advocate to expand its authority.
- The inadequacy of current regulations on Marcellus shale. Jack Ubinger, a senior vice president of Pennsylvania Environmental Council, presented a recent PEC report that recommended a major overhaul of the regulations. It’s available at https://pecpa.org/node/1027.
- Efforts to monitor impacts of Marcellus shale drilling. Presentations were made by the national Trout Unlimited and a panel of local watershed advocates – Somerset Conservation District, Loyalhanna Watershed Association Mountain Watershed Association.
PEC serves as lead external partner in the CLI, which is one of seven CLI’s established across the state by the state Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. The CLI’s are need as a model for revitalizing communities by linking them to natural resources. Lauren Imgrund, special assistant to the assistant secretary of DCNR, provided an overview of the Laurel Highlands CLI as part of the program.