Conservation District Celebrates 60 Years
Protecting Pike Resources
MILFORD — Last Friday, the Pike County Conservation District (CD) celebrated its 60th anniversary at Lily Pond, on Schocopee Road, in Milford Township. Board members, state legislators representing Pike County, and some partnering agencies attended, according to CD Executive Director Sally Corrigan. Pike commissioners in 1956 formed the precursor to CD, the Soil and Water Conservation District, to help conserve soil and water resources, but later, the CD mission expanded to include all natural resources. Corrigan noted that in the early years, CD worked with farmers on conservation planning, assisted landowners with soil survey information and tree plantings, and assisted municipal and county officials with flood control following the devastating 1955 flood caused by Hurricane Diane.
Since then, CD missions of preserving natural resources have touched the lives of every person and many local businesses in Pike County. CD work helps support the economy and educates youth and the public. “We are blessed with great water resources here in Pike County, and the Pike County Conservation District has been a big part in the protection of those resources. “It’s a testament to the work done by our past and present Board and staff,” said CD Board Chairman Scott Savini. The CD is part of a national effort started in the middle to late 1930s to prevent erosion of natural resources. Corrigan said that in the 1930s, government agencies studied the Dust Bowl disasters, caused by intensive farming and lack of knowledge on how to prevent soil erosion and sedimentation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture then organized a system of local agencies given a mission to prevent local soil erosion and stormwater actions that ferried away topsoil. The system would prevent future regional disasters, such as the Dust Bowl. The USDA formed the Soil Conservation Commission, which encouraged the formation of state delegating agencies, such as the county Conservation District. These local agencies helped county and local government, businesses, and communities manage their soil and water resources. Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers and Land Grant universities, such as Penn State, Rutgers, and Cornell, also conducted research on water, soils, and roads.
According to Corrigan, each county district serves as a watchdog agency that monitors soil and water resources and natural resources. State and county regulations and CD enforcement flag potential problems and prevent or counter potential soil and water degradations. CDs also educated the public on how to preserve natural resources. CD has remained in the forefront among Pennsylvania districts. CD was the first district in the state to develop a vocabulary that defined major terms used for soil and water conservation. According to former Pike County Planner and Penn State Pike County Cooperative Extension agent Peter Wulfhorst, though many people settle in Pike County attracted by the resources, and many visit the county to enjoy its natural resources, yet few would know how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep the resources intact through CD enforcement and education programs.
With the knowledge and methodologies learned from the Dust Bowl disasters, local districts, such as CD, county commissioners, county planning department, municipalities, and the Extension formed partnerships to lobby and educate. Partnerships include federal, state, and county agencies on specific projects, such as for funding for plantings and conservation programs, and lobbying legislators for conservation funding, legislation, or programs. CD works with school districts, colleges, agencies, and organizations that have scholarships or programs to educate students and organizations, such as Lacawac Sanctuary, the Penn State Cooperative Extension’s Pike County office, U.S. Forest Service’s Grey Towers/Pinchot Institute, and Wallenpaupack Watershed Management Agency. CD partners with other CDs from neighboring counties, watershed groups, and foundations, such as Pinchot Institute, promoted educational programs and expanded CD clout. For decades, CD encountered resistance from developers, who felt threatened that CD might prevent development.
But, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, CD’s traditional mission, the state commitment to the Growing Greener movement, and education brought CD and former adversaries closer together... for complete story, get this week's issue.