[Philadelphia, PA]—While most eyes are currently focused on the impending budget battle in Harrisburg, the state legislature and Governor Ed Rendell took the last step to protect PA’s portion of the Appalachian Trail when the governor signed HB1281 into law (PA Act 24, 2008) yesterday afternoon. This legislation will take much-needed action to preserve the state’s section of this important national treasure that from encroaching development and other threats. Since its introduction, PennEnvironment has tirelessly advocated for the legislation’s passage.
“While the budget season may often be seen as a contentious time of year in Harrisburg, it’s reassuring that members of the state House and Senate and the governor could work in a bi-partisan fashion to pass this important piece of environmental legislation to protect one of Pennsylvania’s greatest natural resources—our portion of the Appalachian Trail,” said PennEnvironment Director David Masur.
HB1281 was introduced by state Representative Bob Freeman (D-Easton, Chair of the House Local Government Committee) to amend the original Appalachian Trail Act (Act 41, 1978) and ensure that those municipalities through which the Trail runs must adopt and implement zoning in harmony with protecting the Appalachian Trail.
“More and more, encroaching development threatens Pennsylvania’s section of the Trail, and HB1281—now Act 24—is meant to tackle this threat,” state Masur. “We know that Pennsylvanians from all walks of life see the Appalachian Trail as an important part of the state’s natural heritage, so protecting it must be a top priority.”
The urgent need for Act 24 had been highlighted by a recent decision by the Commonwealth Court to give municipalities the choice of remaining un-zoned if they so desired. This decision could directly affect efforts to preserve Pennsylvanian’s piece of the Appalachian Trail, allowing for irresponsible development near the Trail. Without legislation like Act 24, many parts of the Trail could lose their aesthetic and natural qualities forever.
“Pennsylvanians from all walks of life care deeply about wild places like the Appalachian Trail, if they’ve hiked parts of the Trail or not,” said Masur. “The state’s residents want to ensure that the Appalachian Trail is protected for now and for future generations of Pennsylvanians. The legislature and the governor showed that they understand this support for preserving our wild places through the passage of Act 24.”
Pennsylvania’s portion of the Appalachian Trail runs for 229 miles from the Delaware Water Gap in northeastern Pennsylvania, following the eastern rim of the Alleghenies (north of Reading and Allentown) before crossing the Cumberland Valley (near Harrisburg) on its way to Maryland at Pennsylvania’s southern border along the Susquehanna River.
The Trail is part of the National Park Service and is the first scenic trail in the U.S., designated in 1968. Besides its historic importance, the Trail is home to dozens of threatened and endangered species, and many ecologists believe that the Appalachian Trail may contain the greatest level of biodiversity for any unit of America’s National Park Service.