Close to 20 individuals, representing 16 organizations and three state agencies and commissions, attended the first of four Return on Environment meetings at Fort Hunter Park in Harrisburg to evaluate “What Is Dauphin County’s Environment Worth”? Nature provides an array of services from cleaning the air and water, to providing places to recreate and commune, to protecting lives and property from flood waters. Absent these services, how much would it cost taxpayers to replace them? And, equally important, how much do these services generate for the local economy? The answer to both of these questions is hundreds of millions of dollars ANNUALLY!
Return on Environment reports have been assessed for Lehigh, Northampton, Berks and Cumberland counties as well as Kidder Township, Carbon County. The results of the work has proven to be so influential and helpful to planners, that Northampton County Commissioners, upon learning of the results of the 2014 Return on Environment report for Lehigh Valley, included $2.2 million for open space in the 2015 budget. The Return on Environment work is funded by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as part of the Kittatinny Ridge Coalition’s effort to advocate and emphasize the importance of the Ridge for environmental protection, historic preservation, and economic stimulation.
A final report is expected to be released by the end of this year. The next meeting is scheduled for August 17th at Fort Hunter’s Centennial Barn at 10 a.m. Anyone wishing to learn more about the Return on Environment work or becoming involved is encouraged to contact Brooks Mountcastle with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-258-5771.