Pocono Forests and Waters Conservation Landscape Roundtable meeting a huge success

On Oct. 15 PEC and partners held the first Pocono Forests and Waters Conservation Landscape Partners Roundtable. The Landscape aims to connect the conservation of natural resources with sustainable community development.

Through this Landscape work, PEC cooperates with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and community partners to connect state parks and forests to communities, connect community programs to each other, and connect citizens and visitors to the region’s abundant habitat and outdoor recreation areas. PEC is uniquely situated to coordinate this regional collaboration, and work is well underway.

About 120 supporters came together at the Thornhurst Township Fire Hall in Lackawanna County to hear about what has been done so far in the Landscape, such as conservation of 30,000 acres.

“The attendance and enthusiasm at the October Roundtable is a great expression of the strong interest civic leaders in the region have for conservation, connecting natural resources to communities for revitalization, and improving quality of life for their citizens,” said Cindy Dunn, DCNR Deputy Secretary for Conservation and Technical Services.

“We got a lot of great input from the stakeholders about how to align the interests of different people, communities and the natural environment in this unique landscape to benefit them all.”

Attendees were greeted by Chair of the Thornhurst Township Supervisors, Mrs. Elaine Evans, who passionately spoke about how the Township appreciates the natural lands that surround their residents and how they have partnered with PA DCNR many times in the past on projects such as conserving public parkland for access to the Lehigh River. The attendees included municipal leaders, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, land trusts, sportsmens’ groups, trail groups, habitat enthusiasts and interested citizens.

Brad Elison, Assistant State Forester and DCNR lead for the Landscape served as Master of Ceremonies. Brad explained the origins of the Landscape and the hope for a shared vision moving forward. Dan Devlin, Director of DCNR Bureau of Forestry, gave the Opening Comments and talked about his appreciation for the Pocono region and how he has vacationed here for many years. Dan talked about the acreage added to the Lackawanna and Delaware Districts in the past few years through partnerships with groups on the ground. His comments reflected an affection for the region and the shared sentiment of the day that this place is special.

A presentation by the Bureaus represented that day, Forestry, Parks, and Recreation and Conservation, gave an overview of the Goals of the Landscape and projects completed to advance the Goals. Kevin Fazzini, Bureau of State Parks, announced that the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks won the prestigious National Gold Medal Award presented by the American Academy of Park and Recreation Management in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association. This got a great round of appreciation from the group! Dennis DeMara, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, talked about projects in the Landscape where partners, leveraging DCNR funding, completed projects that made that connection between conservation and the community.

The group was tasked with coming up with concrete ideas on how to advance a shared vision in these tough times and leverage our varied and abundant talents toward success. At the end of the day, a Planning Team was established, and identified ways to plan regionally and work cooperatively toward a common agenda.

“The number and varied interests of people in attendance, from habitat and conservation to trails and tourism, was a resounding confirmation of the conservation ethic within this region,” said Ellen Ferretti, PEC Vice President.

“The Landscape will offer a regional forum for cross communication, which did not exist before, and a frame to coordinate the varied programs and projects in these counties, including nature-based tourism for visitors and residents, linkages to state parks and forests, and increasing the link to sustainable communities,” said Ferretti.

The six county Landscape encompasses Wayne, Pike, Monroe, Carbon, Luzerne, and Lackawanna Counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In these Counties, there are: 45,536 Acres of State Park Land, 115,000 Acres of State Forest, and miles of recreational trails. This region is 8 percent of Pennsylvania’s land area and home to 20 percent of Commonwealth’s Wetlands! There are 4,700 miles of streams and about 74 square miles of lakes and ponds in the Pocono Forests and Waters Conservation Landscape.

The extraordinary partners in this region include non-profit organizations such as land trusts and trail groups; municipal leaders at all levels of government; state agencies such as the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Pennsylvania Game Commission; national partners such as the National Park Service’s Upper Delaware and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Areas; Heritage Parks, including Route 6 Heritage Corridor, Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority and Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor; the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership; Common Waters and the Upper Delaware Roundtable; and, private citizens that have established programs and projects designed to balance conservation and the built environment in a sustainable manner so, as we move forward toward future progress, we do not lose the quality of place that in this six county region that we hold so dear.