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Conserving Pennsylvania’s Public Lands for Recreation, Jobs, and Natural Beauty
Ellen Ferretti

Ellen Ferretti On behalf of Governor Tom Corbett, thank you for having me here today to speak on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Fifty years ago, President Kennedy’s first sentences at the launching of the Pinchot Institute were...“I begin today a journey to save America’s natural heritage—a journey to preserve the past and protect the future. And there is no more fitting place to begin that journey than the home of America’s foremost conservation family—the Pinchots.”

The opportunity to speak here today comes at an important time for me as I too am beginning a journey. Just yesterday, I was nominated by Governor Corbett to be the 5th secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. An absolute honor and one which I accept with gratitude. So this is a time of great reflection for me about the tremendous conservation leaders we have had here in Pennsylvania whose work spearheaded stewardship of public lands—including Gifford Pinchot at the very top of the list—but also Joseph Rothrock, Rachel Carson, and many others.

When my daughter and I visited the Muir Woods California Redwoods, I was first struck by the grandeur of the place and a feeling of timelessness and something so real and essential that words failed me. Then I saw the plaque explaining that this land was conserved by one of Pennsylvania’s own—Gifford Pinchot, along with John Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt. For me as a Pennsylvanian and resident of Northeast Pennsylvania, specifically, the sense of pride struck me on a personal level.

As a lifelong conservation professional, I feel the weight of this exciting opportunity, but am buoyed by a strong feeling that conservation is an issue that unites us as Pennsylvanians and Americans. We are standing on hallowed ground for those of us whose daily work involves land conservation, oversight of public lands and sustainable forestry practices.

Pinchot said, “Conservation is a foresighted utilization, preservation and/or renewal of forest, waters, lands and minerals, for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.” Now just as then, we embrace the notion that conservation benefits Pennsylvania’s economy, health, and quality of life. That protecting our environment can go hand-in-hand with a strong economy.

Each day the work of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is a testimony to the economic benefits of sound and sustainable conservation. Our efforts to sustainably enhance our state parks, invest in communities, support local conservation efforts, protect special lands and extract resources from our state forests create jobs, improve local business climates, increase tourismand contribute significantly to the state’s economic prosperity.

Our certified well-managed forest system supports more than 100,000 jobs in the state’s multi-billion dollar timber and energy industries. They also promote clean water and air; conserve scenic beauty and habitat; and act as a haven for those who like to hunt, fish, hike and pursue other outdoor activities. Studies show trails provide visitors unique experiences and result in millions of dollars to related businesses in the towns that border them.

Investments made in local parks and places to play outdoors are proven in their power to build a sustainable economy for Pennsylvania. Our support of regional approaches to conservation empowers citizens, local governments and organizations to take private action on behalf of the communities and landscapes they love.

The idea behind the creation of the Pinchot Institute to encourage studies in environmental and natural resource policy and provide environmental education rings true tome as I embark on my new leadership role. The future of conservation and the next generation of conservationists depend on what we do today. The vision of great conservation leaders at critical times in Pennsylvania’s history—Gifford Pinchot, Joseph Rothrock, Maurice Goddard—has resulted in the system of state parks and forests that Pennsylvanians enjoy and love today.

Our modern challenge is caring for our public lands, focusing on improvements for aging facilities; well-managed forests; and high management standards for our award-winning state parks. During my time at DCNR, I intend to work with Governor Corbett to improve the efficiency of our current assets and operations, and direct our resources into the maintenance and renewal of our campgrounds, water resources, buildings, roads and trails that will maintain and improve the experience of our visitors. I think this endeavor builds on Gifford Pinchot’s practical approach to conservation. Pennsylvania’s rich conservation legacy emerged from lessons learned during past eras of natural resource development.

Children hiking courtesy PA DCNR Conservation action oriented toward protecting wild places and producing a sustainable supply of resources for people, is a complementary approach undertaken by DCNR each day. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. But, our state forest has been independently certified for more than 15 years, validating that we are managing in a way that protects its long-term health. This certification allows removed timber to be sold as sustainably harvested, giving an edge to our timber and wood product industries and sustaining them even when there is a down turn in the industry. Our certification is testimony to DCNR’s ability to manage our forests balancing their many uses and values. The department is happy to support and work with the Milford Experimental Forest adjacent to the Grey Towers property to constantly challenge our processes.

On September 24th in 1963, on just about this very same spot, President Kennedy said “Conservation is the job of all of us.” I was six years old at the time. I lived in an area that had been stripped from coal mining. “Nature” to me was black hills and birch trees, until my parents brought me to the natural beauty held in trust by our state parks. As a child, this resonated with me and forged my future love for conservation.

I believe that young people visiting our state parks and forests with their families, their scout troops, their schools, and participating in the unique programs we offer including Adventure Camps for kids from urban areas; ECO Camp to introduce teens to environmental careers; and our newly launched Project Learning Tree, will come to know and love our natural resources and be advocates for their stewardship.

DCNR’s recent commitment to work with the Pinchot Institute and the US Forest Service on a program to help teachers meet requirements for incorporating environmental literacy into public school science programs will help us with this goal.

Finally, collaboration and leadership on the big challenges is at the core of the Pinchot Institute. I believe the skill of listening to people and working together is critical for a leader, and I know this belief is embraced by DCNR and the Institute. At DCNR, we have tremendous staff with outstanding dedication to the mission of the organization. We also have terrific partners, many present here today.

We place great value on organizations like the Pinchot Institute and the US Forest Service as enduring partners in Pennsylvania, helping us to address the conservation challenges that will affect communities and people throughout the Commonwealth for many years to come.

I look forward to working with you, and many other faces that I see here today, to ensure a better Pennsylvania and Nation for future generations.

Ellen Ferretti is Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in Harrisburg, PA.
 
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