The vision of the Pennsylvania Wilds Conservation Landscape Initiative is to help revitalize rural communities through sustainable tourism development—all while inspiring a stewardship ethic in residents and visitors.
Since being launched in 2003, the effort has had a significant and positive impact on both the businesses and communities in the region and partnerships have been a hallmark of this success. Watch this video to see some of the great things happening in the region. It has been guided by the Pennsylvania Wilds Planning Team, a group of 40 organizations representing federal, state and county government; tourism and cultural interests; education, economic development and the private sector. In 2010, the Planning Team published the 20-page report “Making An Impact” to make the public aware of accomplishments to date and to urge continued support for it at the state level.
The PA Wilds is a 12½ -county area that offers tremendous outdoor experiences, some of the best in the nation, with 29 state parks, 50 state game lands, 8 state forests and the Allegheny National Forest, abundant wildlife and hundreds of miles of land and water trails. The amount of public land in the region—more than 2 million acres—is comparable to Yellowstone. The region is home to the largest elk herd in the northeast, some of the darkest night skies in the country. Nature draws many to the region, but visitors also come to experience the area’s rich oil and lumber heritage and authentic small towns.
The PA Wilds is surrounded by major tourism markets. More than 50 million people live within a day's drive of the region, making it an attractive place for many people to come to experience some of the most scenic and beautiful wild lands in the Northeastern United Stated. The southern portion of the Wilds is accessible from Interstate 80, the busiest east-west interstate in the United States. To the north it is accessible from Pennsylvania Route 6, rated one of America’s most scenic drives by National Geographic magazine. This prime location means real economic opportunity for the communities and businesses in the region.
The PA Wilds CLI has its genesis in an Elk Nature Tourism Study and Plan developed in 2002 for the Lumber Heritage Region. This and a variety of other background research papers and planning studies still support the on-going activities of this collaborative and partnership-based endeavor.
The goals of this landscape initiative are to:
- Ensure stewardship of the public lands and character of the region’s communities;
- Support and grow private businesses such as accommodations, services, and locally made products;
- Promote the renewal of the region’s communities and appropriate community planning; and,
- Invest in public infrastructure to enhance the visitor experience.