The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship and Leave No Trace have developed a partnership to promote sustainable tourism practices across the 13-county Pennsylvania Wilds region, which is explored by millions of visitors each year.
The PA Wilds Center, a non-profit with a mission to marry conservation and economic development in a way that strengthens and inspires communities across the Pennsylvania Wilds, promotes the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, improve quality of life, attract investment and help retain population.
Many partners are involved in the strategy to grow the outdoor recreation and tourism sectors in the PA Wilds, including the region’s county governments, local Destination Marketing Organizations, Heritage Areas, Local Development Districts, state agencies such as the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and many others.
Stewardship has been an important underpinning of the Wilds effort since it was launched 20 years ago, and is woven into all of the PA Wilds Center’s programs and services.
Through this new partnership with Leave No Trace, the PA Wilds Center is investing more focus and resources on stewardship principles that will help people exploring the rural region do so more safely and with fewer environmental impacts.
“The PA Wilds is one of the largest blocks of green space between New York City and Chicago with more than 2 million acres of public land,” said PA Wilds Center Chief Executive Officer Ta Enos.
“Our region is known for being home to the largest wild elk herd in the northeast, the Commonwealth’s only internationally-certified Dark Sky Park, the Allegheny National Forest and so many unique outdoor recreation experiences.
“As visitation continues to grow, and benefit our rural communities in a myriad of ways, it is important we be good stewards of these resources. Partnering with Leave No Trace, a national leader in stewardship in the outdoors, will help us do that.
“Developing the PA Wilds Leave No Trace Initiative – where our partners, stakeholders and business members can easily tap into and leverage the same messaging so that we’re all talking about these important aspects of sustainable tourism from the same vantage point – is critical to sustainably growing our region’s outdoor recreation and tourism sectors, and making sure the wild places and rural culture so many of us residents hold dear, can be enjoyed for future generations.”
Leave No Trace research shows that people form lasting connections with nature when they understand how to protect it.
The partnership with PA Wilds Center will build a program that ensures both visitors and residents are equipped with Leave No Trace environmental and sustainability information and skills to use when they enjoy the iconic natural landscapes in the PA Wilds.
“Leave No Trace is happy to partner with PA Wilds Center to provide relevant, local education about minimum-impact outdoor recreation to the people and visitors to the region,” according to Faith Overall, Leave No Trace’s community engagement manager.
“This important partnership will inspire millions of travelers to be stewards of the PA Wilds’ treasured natural areas.”
In addition to building out even more targeted messaging for visitors on its own platforms, PA Wilds Center is developing a PA Wilds Leave No Trace Initiative for members of the network it manages, The Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, which currently includes more than 475 businesses, non-profits and communities.
Through this associate partner program, members of the Wilds Cooperative (which is free to join) opt in to become PA Wilds Leave No Trace Partners and gain access to free branding tools and educational resources that they can utilize to help their own audiences understand the importance of practicing Leave No Trace while enjoying the PA Wilds.
There will also be training opportunities for members as well as public land managers who work for both DCNR and the Allegheny National Forest in the PA Wilds.
“We are excited to join with the PA Wilds Center in this collaborative effort to equip people with Leave No Trace environmental and sustainability information and skills when they enjoy our state parks and forests in the PA Wilds,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn said.
“We embrace Leave No Trace stewardship principles across all of our public lands, but it is wonderful to see this leadership from the Center and the opportunity it provides to engage more partners across the PA Wilds Conservation Landscape.
“Leave No Trace research shows that people form lasting connections with nature when they understand how to protect it.”
PA Wilds Center and Leave No Trace will be offering a webinar on effective communication of Leave No Trace Principles for the hospitality industry on Feb. 1 at 12 p.m. Join the Wilds Cooperative of PA for free to learn more at www.WildsCoPA.org/join.