Across Pennsylvania, local communities are finding value in identifying with a regional landscape and the natural and recreational resources found there. Collective strategic investments in a larger region are paying off for local economies and citizens’ quality of life.

The Conservation Landscape Summit hopes to:

  • Bring together a diverse group of partners – state and local government officials; business, conservation, economic development and tourism leaders; and recreation and trail groups – to advance regional landscape partnerships across the state.
  • Build a further understanding of and enthusiasm for packaging conservation, recreation and economic development interests in large landscapes that have significant natural resources and Commonwealth investment, i.e. parks, forests, trails and land protection.
  • Develop and share a set of best practices and policies that will support further development of a regional approach to conservation, recreation and economic development across the commonwealth.

Plenary as well as breakout sessions will offer attendees the opportunity to hear about broad policies, strategies and successes. Best practices will be highlighted through panel speakers of statewide and national prominence. The conference will be divided into four tracks that categorize topics based on an attendee’s interest: tourism and economic development, land and greenway conservation, visitor experiences, and communications. A conference white paper will summarize next steps, best practices and key resources.

Track descriptions

Track 1 – Tourism and Economic Development
Tourism and economic development have been at the core of conservation landscape work in the commonwealth since its inception with the PA Wilds about a decade ago. Partnerships and brands that reinforce the unique recreation, aesthetic, natural and cultural values that define the conservation landscapes are increasing tourism and providing economic benefits. In this track you will learn how successful, nature-based tourism businesses contribute to the overall economic success of landscapes and how equally important the sense of place and community character is to this economic vitality.

  • Session 1: Translating the economic benefits of nature-based tourism.Travelers in Pennsylvania spend more than $30 billion a year, much of it enjoying our scenery and our parks, rivers, trails and historic sites. Learn how to articulate the benefits of these resources in dollars and cents, not just in terms of fun, education and healthy living.
  • Session 2: Revitalizing communities through natural assets. This session will focus on the link between various elements of sustainability: ecological, social, and economic. Learn best practices and universal guidelines for communities to use nature as a link to community development.
  • Session 3: Growing outdoor tourism businesses in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has loan programs and other resources for tourism and natural resource-related business development and growth. Join us as we explore new opportunities for small-enterprise investment and employment while providing the benefit of protecting and conserving our natural resources.
  • Session 4: Sampling successful outdoor tourism business in the PA Wilds.Come hear from the PA Wilds small business ombudsman and business owners who have capitalized on the popular PA Wilds brand and been able to take advantage of the region’s natural resource assets to bolster their bottom line.

Track 2 – Land and Greenway Conservation
One of core elements of a conservation landscape is the public lands, trails and green corridors found within the region. These spaces help to define the distinctive qualities and regional identity and lay the foundation for the landscape. This track will provide practical tools, funding approaches and success stories to assist partners with planning, mapping, acquiring and protecting lands in watersheds, greenways, along trail corridors and special habitats within regional landscapes.

  • Session 1: Strategies for funding land conservation. Building a constituency for buying open space for habitat protection, health, ecosystem services, and economic investment involves strategy and organization. Pennsylvania has numerous examples of county and local bond issue successes…and failures. This session will cover successful campaigns and provide strategies for beating back efforts to undo existing open space bond issues.
  • Session 2: Closing trail gaps. A trail becomes a stronger asset in the region when it becomes part of a trail system. Linking trails and greenways can provide transportation, economic and conservation benefits for the communities through which they travel. This session will explore management and mapping tools to identify and prioritize trail gaps.
  • Session 3: Prioritizing land and watershed protection through cooperative regional planning. Conservation strategies are a critical part of a regional landscape. Without the special lands and waterways, the area loses its value as a distinct region with recreational and outdoor-related business opportunities. In this session you will learn the successful tools and cooperative planning approaches for acquisition or easements at a regional, county and municipal level.
  • Session 4: Ensuring conservation and recreation success in the Marcellus Shale region. Marcellus Shale is impacting two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s counties. Learn how conservation-rich landscapes are adapting to the activity and capitalizing on its presence.

Track 3 – Visitor Experiences
A primary goal of a conservation landscape is to have visitors leave your region enriched by its outdoor, historical and cultural experience. Visitors should take something away with them – a part of the experience that resonates or interests. You want them to understand the special qualities of the region and the value of the landscape. Ideally, you want visitors to return and share what makes the area worth visiting with others, sparking further interest. In this track, you will hear how the visitor experience is shaped before the traveler sets foot out the door. How you define and market your region will create expectations. How people navigate and what they observe and absorb as they travel to and through your destinations will define their experiences.

  • Session 1: Defining the visitor experience. What is the visitor experience, when does the experience begin, what does it include and how can you provide authentic experiences? Identify audiences visiting your sites to develop programs and provide facilities and services that meet the needs and expectations of your visitors.
  • Session 2: Combining history, culture and outdoor recreation to pack a powerful punch. Often times, visitors to a region are seeking multi-dimensional experiences – ones that integrate history and heritage with outdoor fun and discovery. Learn how to combine outdoor recreation, historical and cultural assets into packages and tours that add value for the tourist. Here about successful outdoor recreation, environmental and historical programming taking place across the state.
  • Session 3: Connecting with visitors through waysides, kiosks and way-finding.Not all visitors to your region will have a personal experience with a guide, naturalist, tour leader, or business owner. But don’t send them home without any knowledge of what they just experienced. Learn how to use non-personal media like kiosks, driving tours, and information signage to guide visitors to attractions and facilities and connect them to the natural, historic and cultural resources of the region.
  • Session 4: Creating lasting impressions and inspiring stewardship. Forging emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the inherent meanings in the resource is the key to interpretation. Aspects of the visitors’ experience should include information and opportunities on conservation practices for visitors who want to know or do more. Learn techniques and examples of how to connect people to places in a meaningful way so that visitors gain a greater understanding of the resources they visit.

Track 4 – Communications
As the foundation for success, good communication can help to form partnerships, build constituencies, inform citizens and visitors, and influence policy. Existing conservation landscapes are using new technologies and old-fashioned methods to help shape the image and reinforce the purpose of the regional landscape. In this track, you will learn best practices being used relating to social media, electronic communications, marketing, branding, messaging, constituency building and more. You will learn that effective communications doesn’t involve a one-size-fits-all plan, but rather a tailored approach to meet specific goals and audiences.

  • Session 1: Communications 101. It’s more complicated than you may think to be an effective communicator. How do you reach stakeholders and build strong partnerships that rally around the goals of your region? Communicating “internally” with partners is just as important as reaching a general public. Learn how to identify audiences, set goals, pick the right communications channels and deliver the key messages.
  • Session 2: Do you need a brand? Would your region benefit from a brand, or perhaps it already has one that could be strengthened by the outdoors amenities in the region? In a region with multiple partners and sometimes competing brands and messages, it is important to combine and maximize resources. Learn how regions are using their tourist promotion agencies and other partners to help deliver the conservation and outdoor recreation messages through a regional brand.
  • Session 3: Navigating today’s diverse media to spread your word and build a following. In today’s world, simplicity is key among the chaos. Learn how Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, enewsletters, blogs, apps and other channels can be low-cost methods at spreading your word to select audiences. How to blend the new with the “traditional” media like radio, television and print, will be discussed. Learn the simplest ways to attract reporters’ attention, sell your stories and get coverage for what is important in your region.
  • Session 4: Building grassroots constituencies. To coalesce as a region, the people who live there must understand the special qualities of the region. Building a constituency of leaders who make the connection between protected landscapes and vibrant communities will ensure regional successes. What are the best ways to engage citizens, groups and community influencers to become landscape advocates?