Pennsylvania Legacies #174: Funded!

The state budget passed in July represents Pennsylvania’s biggest investment in conservation in more than 15 years, including funding for three new state parks. DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn returns to the podcast for a closer look at what’s in the 2022-23 budget for the environment and outdoor recreation.

The 2022-23 budget includes a historic investment in the environment and conservation in Pennsylvania. $696 million will help fund outdoor recreation, habitat restoration and preservation, the Outdoor Corps, and other projects. The budget also added 31 new DCNR staff positions.

One of the most talked-about budget additions is the $56 million for three new state parks. While the exact locations of the parks will not be announced until later this year, DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn was able to share some hints about their locations: one park will be in one of Pennsylvania’s eight conservation landscapes, two of the parks will be near the Susquehanna River, and all of the new parks involve some degree of partnership with land trusts.

While the locations for these parks have already been decided, the enthusiasm for new park additions has been overwhelming.

“We’re getting all kinds of great ideas from across Pennsylvania for new state parks,” said Secretary Dunn.

The last park added to DCNR’s system was Erie Bluffs, almost 20 years ago.

We’re getting all kinds of great ideas from across Pennsylvania for new state parks.

The budget also included funding for DCNR’s first motorized recreation area. This month, DCNR acquired the 5,600 acres in Weiser State Forest in Schuylkill and Luzerne counties for the Catawissa Recreation Area.

“We have as an agency really moved more and more to embrace motorized recreation as part of the recreation family and trying to accommodate the growing interest there,” said Secretary Dunn. “A lot of people’s introduction to recreation and the outdoors comes through motorized [recreation].” 

The land is also important for conservation. It houses rare plant species and includes tributaries to Catawissa Creek and a grove of old growth hemlocks. DCNR will also be working to restore some of the land that was previously mined.

“If you think about Pennsylvania — where are the opportunities for new outdoor recreation? A lot of it’s going to be on abandoned mine land,” said Secretary Dunn.  

“This is a model to get the best of the ecological restoration, outdoor recreation, and more people in the outdoor recreation family, getting the financial support we need to conserve more land, and in doing so, be able to improve the ecology and water quality of these areas. So I think it’s a win-win,” she said.

The Growing Greener Fund was also renewed for a third time.

“There’s a lot of support out there for conservation and recreation, and we’ve always been successful eventually on Growing Greener and I suspect that will be the case in the future,” said Secretary Dunn.

I think it’s a win-win.

The budget includes money for a Clean Streams Fund and the Keystone Tree Fund, which will help rebuild forested riparian buffers and boost the Treevitalize program, DCNR’s urban forestry program.

“Getting trees in the ground now is critical. With the changes brought on by climate change, hotter and hotter summers, having forest cover in urban areas is really going to become a life or death sort of thing,” said Secretary Dunn.

The budget also included funding to hire additional scientists to study Carbon Capture and Storage in Pennsylvania and to build or purchase a facility to store rock core samples for geologists trying to identify viable CCUS options. The budget will also help make DCNR facilities more energy efficient and continue DCNR’s work to connect trails and close trail gaps.