Pa. DCNR factors climate change into its plans to manage state parks

Written by on August 16, 2021

Pa. DCNR factors climate change into its plans to manage state parks

By Madison Goldberg / StateImpact Pennsylvania

August 16, 2021

Hickory Run State Park. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Parks Facebook page.

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Climate change is front-and-center as Pennsylvania plans for the future of its parks.

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The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ latest plan sets goals for how state parks will be managed in the coming decades.

It calls climate change an “existential threat.”

The initiative suggests ways parks can respond, like installing electric vehicle chargers and building infrastructure to handle worse storms.

It also says parks need to take steps to make sure animals can migrate safely.

Jeanne Ortiz, senior program manager of Landscape Conservation at Audubon Mid-Atlantic works with DCNR on projects along the Kittatinny Ridge.

She’s helping plant community gardens to ease the way for animals that are moving, often because of climate change.

“Those native plants will help us provide connectivity across the ridge so that wildlife can go through a more-developed area and still find sustenance such as food and water as they migrate,” Ortiz said. 

The gardens are planned for Duncannon, Harrisburg, and Lehighton.

Ortiz says planners hope to add more communities, as species continue to flee rising temperatures and other climate impacts.

John Hallas, director of DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks, says climate change is affecting how people visit these areas. 

“We know that climate- and weather-related incidents are impacting access because they’re degrading trails that are either unsustainably built or in locations where they shouldn’t have been built,” Hallas said.

The plan comes around the same time as a major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It reiterates that climate change is already having severe effects, like worse storms and heat waves, and said rapid action is crucial to avoid the worst impacts.

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