Monday, February 27, 2017

DCNR Budget Testimony Outlines Economic Benefits Of Recreation, Accomplishments

The written testimony DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn presented to the House Appropriations Committee Monday highlights the economic contributions Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests and recreation in general make to Pennsylvania as well as her agency’s recent accomplishments.
Secretary Dunn points out the nearly 40 million visits to Pennsylvania’s state parks annually generate more than $1 billion in economic activity; and for every $1 invested in state parks, $12 is returned to the economy.
Local park-related spending creates $1.6 billion annually in economic activity from close to 6,000 local parks, many of which are supported through DCNR grants.
She noted state forests provide a steady supply of quality timber supporting thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania’s $17 billion wood products industries and the sale of timber generates about $24 million in revenues that support DCNR’s budget.
The testimony does note the proposed budget reduces DCNR’s complement by 64 currently vacant positions which will require the agency to evaluate how to use its remaining positions based on agency priorities.
Secretary Dunn highlights a $2 million initiative, contained in a bond issue proposal, to help fund multi-use riparian forest buffers to support the Chesapeake Bay Program.
The text of the written testimony follows--
Good afternoon Chairman Saylor, Chairman Markosek, and members of the House Appropriations Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the budget for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Take a moment to picture the forests of Pennsylvania; your kids or grandkids playing in your nearest park; the trees that line the streets in your community; the darkest skies in the east; stomping along a stream looking for salamanders; sitting around a campfire; learning how to kayak.
These are some of the many experiences DCNR manages and provides for citizens and tourists. Imagine if they were not there.
Not only are they valuable for their beauty, wildness and as places for adventure, they also are valuable assets that generate economic and social returns for every one of your constituents, as well as local governments, and the private sector.
For instance:
-- The close to 40-million visits to Pennsylvania state parks each year generate more than $1 billion in economic activity.
-- For every dollar invested in state parks, more than $12 of value-added income is returned to the Commonwealth.
-- State forests provide a steady supply of quality timber to the market, supporting thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania’s $17 billion wood products industries.
-- Timber harvests generate $24 million in revenues that support DCNR’s budget.
-- Pennsylvania has close to 6,000 local parks, many of which have been supported through DCNR grants that leverage twice their amount in private dollars.
-- Local park-related spending creates $1.6 billion annually in economic activity.
-- Trails also have impact, with $40 million in revenue each year generated by the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage – just one of the many fantastic trails in the state.
-- Where they make sense, the use of public-private partnerships to improve and expand the resources and services DCNR provides, including operation of the ski area at Laurel Mountain State Park by Seven Springs and agreements with about 145 concessionaires for things like food sales and watercraft rentals at state parks.
Governor Wolf’s budget proposal has a focus on cost savings and efficiencies, and in the past several years, DCNR has responded to that challenge with initiatives that:
-- Reformed our state park reservation system, saving $100,000 a year;
-- Brought business practices including our grant program into the digital realm so that we work smarter; and
-- Furthered a strategic initiative focused on green and sustainable practices to reduce utility bills by improving efficiency.
We continue to look for ways to operate efficiently, and make the best use of our staff and resources.
As part of a commitment to reform, the Governor’s proposal includes the reduction of 64 currently vacant positions from our complement. This will require us to evaluate and prioritize how we best achieve our mission of conserving and managing Pennsylvania’s natural places, and connecting people to them.
The Governor’s budget includes a bond issue that identifies $2 million for work on riparian forest buffers that would provide additional lift to the initiative to plant trees along streams in the Susquehanna watershed effort. In addition, it includes $52 million in support of the Environmental Stewardship Fund.
DCNR has laid the groundwork this past year for a successful statewide effort to improve water quality with a pilot grant program that will get trees in the ground along streams this spring; a design option that gives the landowner the opportunity to realize some revenues from native plants in the buffer; and successfully attracting federal funding for positions to coordinate the initiative and provide technical assistance on the ground.
The department is nationally recognized in many areas of its work including management of state parks, state forests that are sustained for the future, and efforts to respond to its citizens needs for outdoor recreation that support tourism, healthy lifestyles, and conservation.
We strive every day to create opportunities to grow our recreational and tourism economy through a revitalized park and forest system that ensures we are conserving our natural resources, and protecting our people and the environment.
I’m proud to work with the men and women of DCNR, and you, to make Pennsylvania a great place to live, work, and play.
A copy of the testimony is available online.
Related Story:
Gov. Wolf Proposes New Budget With Little New For The Environment

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