Governor Josh Shapiro’s proposed 2024-25 budget represents a much-needed investment in the outdoors and Pennsylvania’s environment, including new funding for trails and workforce development in the outdoor industry.
In his budget proposal released Tuesday, the Governor called for $8.5 million for trail development and improvement across the state. Mr. Shapiro also proposed a $5 million expansion of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps, which provides training and valuable work experience to youth and young adults who assist the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in maintaining and improving public lands. Inspired by the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, the program offers young people from diverse backgrounds a pathway to careers in conservation, a field in which women and nonwhite workers are historically underrepresented.
Both budget lines reflect a commitment to building capacity for Pennsylvania’s fast-growing outdoor industry, as outlined in DCNR’s recently released outdoor recreation roadmap. This funding also underscores the tremendous challenge that our recreational infrastructure faces in light of soaring demand and long-term maintenance needs.
In 2022, outdoor businesses contributed more than $17 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy.
“PEC is pleased to see the Governor recognize the many economic benefits of trails and outdoor recreation assets,” said PEC President Thomas Gilbert. “We look forward to a sustained and serious conversation about investing in resources that return so much to our communities — not only in jobs and economic activity, but in benefits to our health and quality of life.”
In addition to outdoor recreation, Tuesday’s speech emphasized one of Governor Shapiro’s top environmental priorities: locating and plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, whose uncontrolled emissions threaten human health and contribute to climate change, with an $11 million allocation from the General Fund. Pennsylvania’s well-plugging effort has accelerated since Mr. Shapiro took office, but faces an uphill battle to cap the hundreds of thousands of abandoned wells estimated to be in the Commonwealth.
The budget also proposes $50 million for the Whole Home Repairs program, which provides assistance to homeowners for basic repairs and improvements including energy-efficiency upgrades. Simple interventions like fixing roofs and sealing leaky windows can lower residents’ utility bills and help control greenhouse gas emissions, while making properties eligible for other funding opportunities to further reduce residential energy usage.