PA Highlands Planning Tools Survey

The Appalachian Mountain Club recently published a report summarizing findings and recommendations for what tools are needed to further conservation planning efforts in the PA Highlands Region.

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) works in the Highlands Region of Pennsylvania to promote the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of its mountains, forests, waters, and trails. This region is a 13-county, 1.4-million-acre region that includes the populations of the Lehigh Valley, Reading, and Pottstown, and is in close proximity to the populations of the cities of Philadelphia and Harrisburg. It includes conserved mountain areas, forests, farms, and trails.

For AMC in the Highlands Region of Pennsylvania, the development of conservation planning tools to assist our partners in the protection of this region began in the early 2000s. To understand the use of these products and to assist in guiding future planning projects, in 2022, AMC conducted a survey of our conservation partners that included local, county, and state government agencies, as well as conservation organizations.

The survey established an understanding of what tools were being used and how, as well as what type of future studies and tools are needed to assist in facilitating continued conservation of the Highlands Region. With the results of this survey, AMC was able to conclude that prioritization of promoting the PA Highlands Region, updating existing projects, and developing new planning tools would provide the most benefit to partners within the PA Highlands. The prioritization of these projects was determined based on the number of participants ranking them in the survey, as well as mentioning them during the discussion period of a follow-up interview. Based on these results, the AMC is moving forward with implementing several of these projects and recommendations.

Examples of Findings (more in report):

  • AMC conservation planning tools are not always reaching municipal and county officials and staff. By increasing collaboration with the local government and conservation partners, the AMC would bring awareness of existing planning tools as well as working together in developing new tools to increase conserving this region of the Highlands.
  • Our conservation partners are mostly unaware of the 4-state Highlands region as a focused collaborative conservation effort and the work that AMC has done in the development of conservation planning tools found on the PA Highlands website including Protecting Threatened Trail Views Along the Circuit: An Assessment of Land Conservation priorities and Development Along the Circuit and An Analysis of the Conservation Potential in the Sand Hills Conservation Area. However, now that several participants are aware of these planning tools, they are more likely to use them.

Examples of Recommendations (more in report):

  • Develop an interactive map that is a “one-stop shop” for these resources, including AMC projects, updated Highlands Conservation Act data layer and expanded boundary, state representatives, and available funding sources.
  • Update previous AMC assessment studies with the results of the updated Highland Conservation Act study once it is completed.

You can read the full report here: 03_01_2023-Report-AMC-Conservation-Planning-Tools-Public.pdf