A recently released report on Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes highlights successes and outlines key findings for supporting landscape-scale collaboration. (Image: PA DCNR)

Pennsylvania has focused regional collaboration around large Conservation Landscapes since 2004. All, or significant portions, of five of these landscapes are within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), which coordinates the Conservation Landscapes program, just released a report based on an independent evaluation carried out in 2019. Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes, Models of Successful Collaboration highlights seven of the commonwealth’s landscapes and outlines a series of findings on the overall program. For all of us in the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, many of these findings will resonate: 

Leadership Role of State Government – DCNR has been the driving force in convening and sustaining landscape conservation work. The agency’s role has been essential—as a primary landowner, convener and facilitator, a force for marshalling resources, and a vehicle for aligning policy and spreading lessons learned. 

Consistent Staff and Financial Support– DCNR has underpinned the program with committed staff and annual funding allocations. The durability and success of the program is in many ways attributable to the sustained investment in ensuring that each

Conservation Landscape has dedicated staff leadership. 

Holistic Perspective – The program stands out as addressing the social and economic needs of communities as well as natural resource conservation values. This underscores the value in convening a holistic conversation about how communities wish to see their futures unfold—and how the surrounding landscapes are central to those futures. Innovative Place-based Projects – Each of the landscapes has been encouraged to develop programs that meet the priorities of local communities and regional conditions. This recognition of the importance of local context has allowed each landscape to forge genuine collaborations focused on the future of the specific region. Adaptive Management – All landscapes were found to be meeting their benchmarks including partner consultation, and effective administration of grant programs and funding opportunities. Many landscapes have gone through a re-assessing of their goals and governance. This ability to make needed course adjustment is a sign of strength. Connection to Conservation Challenges – The Conservation Landscape approach could play a more significant part in tackling landscape-scale issues like climate change, invasive species, and resilient infrastructure. 

Measuring Success – Evaluation and measurement of impact has been under-attended to across the Conservation Landscape program. Better measurement and communication of outcomes will more concretely document the value and impact of a landscape approach. 

“We believe that the landscape-scale approach, now more than 15 years in practice, is well positioned to help Pennsylvania tackle the most challenging problems such as watershed protection, and our changing climate and its impacts on infrastructure, wildlife, and health,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “As we strive to accelerate the pace and scale of conservation efforts, a good understanding of what makes landscape efforts successful is critical.” 

Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes, and other regional landscape conservation efforts– like at Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Virginia’s Piedmont, the Shenandoah Valley and more–are essential foundational elements of the Chesapeake landscape conservation movement, and of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership itself.

Lightning Update is a regular communication of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions of the Partnership or member organizations.
To share a success story, news, or important event, send your information to:

[email protected]

Support for the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is provided by:
National Park Service Chesapeake
EPA Chesapeake Bay Program
USDA Forest Service
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Virginia Outdoors Foundation
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Chesapeake Conservancy

The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is co-convened by: