Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Good Morning. Chairman Yaw, Chairman Yudichak, Senators and guests. It is a pleasure to appear before the committee regarding my nomination to become the sixth secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
I have appreciated the opportunity to meet individually with many Senate members. I am grateful for the time and courtesy extended to me, and I value our conversations and the opportunity to work with each of you in the months ahead.
I am honored to be nominated by Governor Wolf to lead DCNR. The agency’s programs and services are steeped in history, with parks and forests programs dating back more than 100 years. DCNR is built upon a solid foundation established by tremendous conservation leaders including former Governor Gifford Pinchot, Joseph Rothrock and Maurice Goddard.
In the lobby of our building that bears her name, my portrait hangs next to Rachel Carson, providing me with a daily reminder of the footsteps that I follow in and our legacy of conservation.
DCNR’s mission is just as important now as it was 100 years ago — maybe even more — and will continue to play a vital role in the future of Pennsylvania: maintaining and improving state parks; managing state forest lands to assure their long-term health, sustainability and economic use; administering grant and technical assistance programs that promote land conservation and sustainable communities; and providing outdoor connections for our citizens and visitors.
I am very familiar with the department, having served in several leadership posts at DCNR, including as deputy secretary where I led the department’s conservation landscape program and oversaw the Community Conservation Partnerships grant program.
Even more important to my passion for the environment, conservation and public service, however, was my Dad, who worked as a division chief in the former Department of Forests and Waters and often took our family to visit his projects in our state parks and forests for vacation.
I also have worked in the private sector, leading environmental groups Audubon Pennsylvania, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future.
My hobbies, including birding, fishing, canoeing and hiking, also make me a customer for our agency as well as an employee. On many weekends I can be found on a trail or the water in a local, or state park or forest.
And now, I find myself in a new way responsible for protecting and enhancing the very resources and outdoor opportunities I have enjoyed my entire life.
Many of you asked what I would like to focus on if confirmed as secretary of DCNR.
During my time at the department, I intend to work with Governor Wolf to provide parks that inspire; forests that support jobs and wildlife; and technical know-how that will create a greener Pennsylvania.
I also want to improve upon the three pillars of our agency’s mission – Stewardship, Partnership and Service.
I will expect DCNR staff to continue to look beyond the ordinary. We will look for new and imaginative solutions to move our work forward. I have no doubt DCNR employees will deliver what we ask of them.
Of course, I will look to forge strong relationships with you and your colleagues in the General Assembly. We both serve the same constituents, so a free and constant dialogue is necessary to satisfy their needs. I pledge to you DCNR will continue to be accessible and responsive.
I’d like to leave you with an underlying thought . Most people don’t think of DCNR as an economic development agency.
However, studies show that the visitors to state parks help local communities prosper, generating a billion dollars each year in economic activity and supporting 13,000 jobs. Our certified well-managed forest system supports the state’s multi-billion dollar timber and energy industries as well as providing clean water and air, hiking and other outdoor activities, scenic beauty and habitat.
Some of the country’s biggest cities, like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania’s small towns like Confluence in southwestern Pennsylvania, Ridgway in the Pennsylvania Wilds and Jim Thorpe in the Poconos, have recognized the value of their rivers, trails and parks as amenities that spur business development and draw people to downtowns.
As Pennsylvania’s largest land manager, recreation provider and community recreation partner, DCNR is well positioned to lead outdoor recreation initiatives that will invigorate citizens and communities, encourage healthy lifestyles, create jobs that pay and promote environmental stewardship.
Strengthening and institutionalizing these and other efforts this year and next, and working to connect deeply to communities and partners will be our focus.
My vision for this department is to make it the best conservation agency in the country, because how we manage our lands; protect our open spaces; grow our communities; inspire our citizens; and protect precious habitat will shape our future as Pennsylvanians.
It would be an honor to follow in the footsteps of the great conservation leaders before me. I ask that you give me the opportunity to do so. Thank you for your consideration.