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Pennsylvania Chapter of APA Policy Statement on Critical Environmental Areas Conservation

Issue

While Pennsylvania’s growth rate is barely above the replacement level, the movement of people into our open space is gobbling up land at an unprecedented rate. Much of that land is sensitive or near sensitive lands and waters. The intent of our constitution, which guarantees the right to “pure water and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment,” is besieged by thousands of bulldozers.
Put simply, we are putting too much stress on our critical environmental areas (CEAs).

Forests still cover vast areas of the Commonwealth and the number of trees is estimated to be increasing overall. However, in some parts of the state, fragmentation and invasive species in particular, are affecting the health of forests. In many areas, springs, seeps, wetlands, headwaters and steep slopes have been impaired by runoff, often agriculturally sourced, or improper uses of slopes such as clear cutting.

The flora and fauna that make Pennsylvania home are surrounded by manmade activities that change their habitat and impair their ability to survive. Imbalance ensues, the food chain is corrupted and eventually Pennsylvanians suffer. The over 5,000 abandoned pits and mines pose a safety hazard for many Pennsylvanians and must be reclaimed. Without action now, the deterioration of Pennsylvania’s ecosystems will become more pronounced, in some cases irreversible, the loss to our quality of life irremediable.

Land conservation provides a variety of public values such as rivers, lakes, springs, seepages and streams protection, groundwater quality and quantity security especially for drinking water, safeguarding critical natural areas and important wildlife habitat, and providing recreation and education.

Vision

We see a Pennsylvania in which the protection of valuable or sensitive land and water is a paramount factor in the process of growth, defended wherever possible but compromised as little as possible when disturbance is necessary.

Supported Actions
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA supports a clear, simple and efficient system to identify critical environmental areas that includes a state-of-the art inventory of all CEAs that is easily and cheaply available to all, based upon a clearly defined classification system, differentiates between manmade and natural areas, and supports fair and uniform use regulations.
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA supports clear rules identifying the relative value of CEAs and a mechanism to create new CEAs whenever existing CEAs are destroyed, a concept sometimes referred to as “no net loss.”
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA encourages more direct participation by local governments in the regulation and management of CEAs, based upon a clearly defined inventory and classification system.
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA encourages the Commonwealth to develop innovative land use incentives preserving CEAs, which fully compensate landowners except in situations where the land has been purchased for speculation.
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA urges the Commonwealth to take the lead in incentive programs encouraging sound land use sparing CEAs.
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA urges greater funding to speed the reclamation effort facilitated by the Federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA supports simplification of the permit process to create one general permit covering municipal maintenance activities in and around waterways and other CEAs.
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA urges governmental incentives, regulatory and monetary; to encourage productive but environmentally sensitive agriculture that protects open space and the use of renewable natural resources.
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA supports a statewide goal changing the average ratio of land development to land preservation from three-acres-to-one to one-acre-to-one.
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA supports the Commonwealth’s Growing Greener initiatives and calls upon the General Assembly to give Pennsylvanians a greater voice in providing for them.
  • The Pennsylvania Chapter of APA supports the Conservation Reserve Enhancement and the Conservation Reserve programs, incentives for key BMPs improving water quality, nutrient removal based BMP subsidies, and rotational grazing practices.