Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes Show the Value of Places Like the South Mountain Region

Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes Show the Value of Places Like the South Mountain Region

The South Mountain Conservation Landscape is one of eight such landscapes across the Commonwealth that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) recognizes for their unique cultural, historical, recreational, and economic features. Since 2004, Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscape Program has used place-based partnerships to drive strategic investments and actions around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreation projects.

In 2019, an independent evaluation of the program was conducted to better understand the impact it is having, identify best practices, and recommend ways for improving and sustaining it.  Findings from the evaluation can be found in the recently released report, 2019 Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes – Models for Successful Collaboration, which can be downloaded at

The report identifies best management practices such as the power of partnerships, collaboration makes connections possible despite development pressures, and public investments are the foundation for locally-based entrepreneurship. DCNR and its conservation landscape partners in the South Mountain and across the state have already begun implementing these and other recommendations and will continue in 2020 and beyond to make Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes a model for place-based partnerships across the United States.

The South Mountain conservation landscape, which encompasses portions of Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties, is made up of hundreds of partners from municipal, county and state governments, local businesses, nonprofits, academia, and concerned citizens. Since our creation in 2006, we have many successes to celebrate. This includes the White Rocks land acquisition project that ultimately protected 850 acres of valuable forestland on South Mountain in Cumberland County. The site was under serious threat of development and its protection helped provide a buffer and scenic viewshed of the Appalachian Trail.

“The South Mountain Partnership invests in building the capacity of its partners and uses a collaborative approach to tackle large projects like the White Rocks acquisition,” said Katie Hess. Director of the South Mountain Partnership. “That’s led to significant wins for the landscape including the conservation of 850-acres of valuable forested land on South Mountain, the rebirth of the Craighead House as a cultural and educational asset, and a current focus on clean water efforts for local communities and the Chesapeake Bay.”

To learn more about the South Mountain conservation landscape and our work for 2020 and beyond, please visit


Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center Host 8th Annual South Mountain Power of the Partnership

Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center Host 8th Annual South Mountain Power of the Partnership

The new Franklin County 11/30 Visitor Center was the site of the 8th Annual “Power of the Partnership breakfast, coordinated by the South Mountain Partnership in early February. Franklin County Commissioners David Keller, Robert Thomas, and Robert Ziobrowski welcomed over 130 attendees from Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York Counties, highlighting the historic, agricultural, and recreational value of the county they represent.

The South Mountain Partnership is one of seven landscape initiatives in Pennsylvania, which support investment and action around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreational projects. Cindy Dunn, Secretary of PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), spoke to the value of the state’s conservation landscape efforts and the success of the South Mountain Partnership (SMP), often a model of the effort.

Suzanne Dixon, CEO and President of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), shared ATC’s new initiative–the Wild East. The Wild East brings greater attention to the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) and the lands surrounding the 2,192-mile footpath. Both the Wild East and South Mountain landscapes are efforts to secure access to open, natural spaces and the historic, cultural, and aesthetic assets they bring.

The breakfast program focused on profiles of action along the South Mountain landscape, including Franklin County’s collective actions to oppose a 230KV, double line transmission project, proposed by Transource PA and slated to traverse more than 29 miles of the county. Speaking were Lori Rice of the Franklin County Stop Transource community group. Lori, a business owner and farm wife, discussed the impacts on the watershed, karst system, agricultural land, and the community culture of Franklin County. Mike Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corporation, addressed Franklin County’s balanced approach to development and the reasons FCADC did not support the project, noting the county approach to economic development and citing the zero-value of the project to PA.

The South Mountain Partnership awarded six 2018 Mini Grants, totaling $50,000. The grant program commenced in 2009 and has supported more than 60 projects, awarding $440,000 in funds and leveraging just under $900,000 in matching investment.

Mike Eschenmann, DCNR Internal Lead of South Mountain Partnership, awarded Karen Lutz, recently retired as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director of ATC, with the ‘Spirit of South Mountain’ award. The award recognized Lutz’s long-standing efforts to advance the Partnership.

“Throughout our 13-year history, SMP has consistently relied on diverse partners to be the ‘Power’ that positively impacts the South Mountain landscape of Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York Counties. The gathering is invaluable as the region seeks to better conserve and manage agricultural, natural, recreational, and historical assets,” said Katie Hess, director of South Mountain Partnership.


Join South Mountain Partnership For Power of the Partnership Annual Breakfast

Join South Mountain Partnership For Power of the Partnership Annual Breakfast

The 7th-annual South Mountain Partnership‘s Power of the Partnership breakfast is slated for January 26, 7:30 AM to 10:30 AM, at Bongiorno Conference Center in Carlisle . It is a celebration of the South Mountain region, encompassing the South Mountain and Michaux Forest landscape of Franklin, Adams, Cumberland, and a small portion of York Counties. The region encompasses four state parks–Mont Alto, Caldeonia, Pine Grove, and King’s Gap– and such communities as Chambersburg, Waynesboro, Gettysburg, and Carlisle The mountain greenway is a special mix of heritage, culture, nature, and recreation and contributes a distinct character, attracting residents and visitors to the landscape.

South Mountain Partnership invites individuals, businesses, municipalities, and non-profits:

  • Celebrate our collective accomplishments in 2017, and look forward to what’s to come in 2018;
  • Connect with the Partnership as a whole and get an understanding of how the Partnership works and where we are going;
  • Network with folks in the region who are making a difference;
  • Hear about projects that have received funding through the 2016 South Mountain Mini-Grant Program.

Cost is $10 for a full-breakfast. Register here.

The South Mountain Partnership is a regional, landscape conservation project in south-central Pennsylvania. Launched in 2006, the Partnership operates as a public-private partnership between Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It has grown into an alliance of citizens, businesses, non-profits, academic institutions, and local, state and federal government agencies and officials collaborating to envision and secure a sustainable future for the South Mountain landscape. This landscape is home to many. Together, the Partnership strives to collaborate in sustaining the South Mountain landscape.