Our History

About DCNR’s Conservation Landscape Program

A decade ago the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) launched a “Conservation Landscape” program with the belief that a broader, regional approach could profoundly impact local communities by advancing the protection of important natural assets. Adopting an integrated approach of working with state parks and forests, the landscapes surrounding these public lands, and the communities therein, DCNR’s Conservation Landscape program drives strategic investments around themes of conservation, community revitalization and sustainability in special landscapes across Pennsylvania. DCNR has designated seven Conservation Landscapes within the Commonwealth.

About Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Landscape Conservation Program 

The Appalachian Trail Landscape Partnership has the vision of an Appalachian Trail and surrounding landscape that connect people, communities and nature, forever safeguarding the backbone and heart of the Wild East. This vision is reminiscent of Benton MacKaye’s 1921 proposal of an Appalachian Trail that would offer opportunities for recreation, recuperation and employment. Today, the A.T. is more than just an isolated footpath in the woods. It connects rural communities and working farms and forests; squeezes through rapidly developing regions; and provides the foundation for world-class outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities. We see MacKaye’s vision in action, but it is not fully realized.

Although the A.T. is protected under federal law, the wild, scenic and culturally significant landscapes that define the uniqueness of the Appalachian Mountain Range are vulnerable to an expanding human footprint. The next phase of A.T. land conservation is focused on broadening the scope of the Trail’s protection.

Today, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy supports the South Mountain Partnership by co-hosting this initiative, and also commits additional resources to support landscape coordination through the trail in PA.

Pole Steeple Hike

Regional Capacity Building Initiative Strengthened South Mountain

In 2015, the South Mountain region was selected to participate in a capacity building program that will be facilitated by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The purposes of this initiative were to a) increase the collective and individual grassroots capacity to accomplish regional goals at the intersection of community and environment and b) establish durable, powerful, and coordinated efforts to advance programs and policies to improve regions and communities beyond the term of the initiative. The program is made possible by the following funding partners: the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network (CBFN), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and the Chesapeake bay Trust.

This initiative will provided facilitation services, technical assistance, training and grants to strengthen and diversify regional collaborations working together to advance a shared regional and community driven agenda that improves the quality of life in the region and protects and restores natural resources. 

These 12 partners were key to a successful program: 

  • Adams County Planning Department
  • Audubon Pennsylvania
  • Cumberland Area Economic Development/Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau
  • Capital Resource Conservation & Development
  • Cumberland County Planning Department
  • Dickinson College
  • Franklin County Planning Department
  • Franklin County Visitors Bureau
  • Partnership For Better Health
  • Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
  • Wilson College
  • York County Planning Commission

Key Successes from this program were:

2016 Capacity Building Initiative Plan;

  • Approximately $100,000 is being invested in the region –
  • Individual Organization Capacity Building Grants awarded to:
    • Franklin County Visitors Bureau for creation of a local Certified Ambassador Program that can be replicated throughout the South Mountain region;
    • Pennsylvania Audubon for Board Development and Communications;
    • Capital RC&D for implementation of Communications Plan and building new partnerships
    • Regional Capacity Building Grant:
      • South Mountain Partnership for Strategic Planning, to include Operational Plan

White Rocks Land Acquisition

The South Mountain Partnership, and many of its partners, played a critical role facilitating the 2011 acquisition of 850 acres of land along the South Mountain ridge line in Monroe and South Middleton townships, Cumberland County.

In fact, the White Rocks project was an initial focusing element and goal that solidified the collaboration that allowed the South Mountain Partnership to take form. This project too was a major success that built momentum and credibility for the Partnership’s vision.

The White Rocks acquisition was two decades in the making. The National Park Service acquired four parcels within Cumberland County in the late 1980s and early 90s (300 acres) to protect the Appalachian National Scenic Trail corridor. In 2006 Penn Products, the original landowner, proposed developing 274 homes adjacent to the A.T. corridor on five remaining parcels. Well-attended public meetings underscored public opposition to this proposal, and in 2009 Penn Products approached the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy to discuss a conservation sale. A strong group of partners emerged: the Appalachian Trail Conservancy negotiated the acquisition, with the National Park Service – Appalachian Trail Park Office becoming owner of the protected lands. Other partners included the DCNR Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, the Cumberland County Planning Department, Cumberland Valley Appalachian Trail Club, Mountain Club of Maryland, and Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club. Thanks in large part to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and DCNR’s Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, the $3.2 million acquisition closed in 2011. Today White Rocks remains an unbroken swath of forest that preserves stunning views, critical wildlife habitat, sources of drinking water, and outdoor recreational opportunities.


White Rocks receives Keystone 20th Anniversary Conservation Award

In March, 2013, the White Rocks Acquisition project received recognition during a celebration highlighting the 20th Anniversary of Pennsylvania’s Keystone Fund. The Keystone 20th Anniversary Awards were designed to recognize successful Keystone projects throughout the Commonwealth. The awards recognized exemplary projects in 6 categories: library, recreation, trail, historic preservation, state park, and conservation. The White Rocks Acquisition project received the award for the conservation category.

About the Keystone Fund: The Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund is a critical dedicated funding source for recreation and conservation projects, libraries, historic preservation initiatives and higher education. Established in 1993 with an overwhelmingly approved voter referendum, a 48-0 vote in the Pennsylvania Senate and a 196-3 vote in the House, the Keystone Fund automatically receives 15 percent of the state’s realty transfer tax. Since its establishment, the fund has helped conserve more than 130,000 acres of green space, supported more than 1,900 park projects, and funded 570 historic preservation projects and more than 200 library projects.