Laurel Ridge braces for climate change

April 20, 2018 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
PEC in the News

Atop Laurel Ridge in eastern Westmoreland County, a strategically placed pile of crushed limestone serves as a low-tech measure to keep acid rain from getting into Rock Run — and then Linn Run, which feeds into Loyalhanna Creek.

“We’re dealing with the acidity of our streams” said Monte Murty of Ligonier Township, president of the 460-member Forbes Trail Chapter of Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited. “We’re trying to be proactive, without being overly political.”

The fishermen see the impact of acid rain on trout streams from the pollutants that drop on forested ridges from power plant smokestacks and then get washed into streams by rainfall, particularly after dry spells, Murty said.

From the state perspective, the impact of climate change will be seen on top of Chestnut and Laurel ridges and the Allegheny Plateau along Westmoreland, Somerset, Indiana and Blair counties, said Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Those ridges and other higher elevations could be critical for understanding the increased threat of climate change, she said.

“It will be one of the important areas for climate change,” said Dunn, whose department oversees 121 state parks and 2.2 million acres of forest land across Pennsylvania.

The issue isn’t about the weather but long-term changes, said Davitt Woodwell, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

“This is a global issue, and the earliest impacts aren’t being seen in Pennsylvania,” he said. “There is not a ‘sky is falling’ moment in Western Pennsylvania.”

In the end, Woodwell believes Pennsylvania will see negative impacts from climate change.

“We’re also a major part of the problem,” he said. “Pennsylvania at one point recently was about one percent of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases. That’s changed some because of switches from coal to natural gas for a lot of our electricity, but our impact is still pretty big.”

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