Conserve Land and Wildlife
Pennsylvania is blessed with spectacular natural areas, from forested ridges and sweeping valleys to twisting rivers and lush meadows, as well as some of the most fertile farmland in the nation. But many of these areas are threatened by development. Environmental Stewardship Fund investments are instrumental in conserving these places, ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy and appreciate them the way we do now.
- 106,000+ acres of productive farmland preserved
- 727,000+ acres of natural areas and community open space conserved (funded in part by the Environmental Stewardship Fund)
Loss of Natural Areas and Community Open Space
As populations in metropolitan areas increase, natural areas are lost to sprawling residential and commercial developments. All too often these developments are poorly designed, with little consideration of the environmental damage caused by shortsighted land-use policies. Between 1992 and 2015, the amount of developed land in Pennsylvania increased by 133%, and thousands more acres are lost each year. Stream corridors are ditched or buried, causing problems related to runoff and erosion. Wetland habitats are destroyed, throwing valuable ecosystems out of balance. Forest systems are fragmented, threatening wildlife populations and their economic productivity as working timber lands. Parks and trails lack the necessary space to be built or expanded.
Without diligent conservation efforts—and the funding they require—many of Pennsylvania’s most valuable and beloved natural areas and open spaces will vanish.
Loss of Farmland
Since 1982, nearly a million acres of Pennsylvania farmland have been lost to development. This loss is permanent—once farms are paved over with asphalt, they forever forfeit their potential as fertile crop and grazing lands. As metropolitan areas grow and rural populations decline, more productive farmland is threatened.
When a farm is developed, the negative consequences ripple outward through the surrounding community. The loss of a farm is the loss of something greater—an essential piece in a shrinking web of neighboring farms and local businesses that rely upon each other. As more farmland is permanently lost, the connections within local economies continue to fray. One by one, communities are transformed. Ultimately, the entire farm economy is endangered by this piecemeal dismantling.
The loss of farmland also increases food insecurity. Without access to locally grown food, consumers are forced to rely on imported products delivered through complex global trade networks. These networks are vulnerable to disruptive events like droughts and political upheaval that can cause food supplies and prices to fluctuate unpredictably, leaving consumers wondering where their next meal will come from and if they will be able to afford it. This has implications for national security—put simply, an America that depends on other nations to feed its people is not secure.
Protect Natural Areas and Community Open Space
Organizations and local governments have protected more than 727,000 acres of land for nature preserves, parks, and trails, as well as land that is added to state parks and forests. Many of these acquisitions were funded by the Environmental Stewardship Fund. The Environmental Stewardship Fund provides crucial funding while leveraging local investments in conservation—in many cases between $2 and $3 for every grant dollar awarded. In addition to offering opportunities for outdoor recreation, these natural areas provide a wealth of benefits, helping purify the air, prevent pollution from entering waterways, and shelter wildlife. Many of these benefits, such as clean air and drinking water, are economic as well as environmental.
Preserve Productive Farms
Environmental Stewardship Fund investments have enabled county farm preservation boards, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, to protect more than 106,000 acres of productive farmland through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program. Overall, the program has permanently protected over 550,000 acres since it began in 1989, making Pennsylvania a national leader in farmland preservation.
Plan for Conservation
Counties across Pennsylvania have used Environmental Stewardship Fund grants to create County Natural Heritage Inventories, detailed reports that identify and map important wildlife, plants, and natural areas. These inventories provide crucial information that shapes land-use decisions and conservation priorities, helping protect land and wildlife—especially vulnerable and rare species.