PennEnvironment Applauds Senate Passage of Bill to Protect Appalachian Trail


Statement of David Masur, PennEnvironment Director

“PennEnvironment applauds the state Senate for passing House Bill 1281 (HB1281) today, which will take greater steps to protect Pennsylvania’s portion of the Appalachian Trail.

HB1281 was introduced by state Representative Bob Freeman (D-Easton, Chair of the House Local Government Committee) to amend the Appalachian Trail Act (Act 41, 1978) to ensure that those municipalities through which the Trail runs adopt and implement zoning in harmony with protecting the Appalachian Trail. More and more, encroaching development threatens Pennsylvania’s section of the Trail, and HB1281 is meant to tackle this threat.

The Appalachian Trail is one of the most well known and iconic parts of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage. The legislature sent a strong message about the importance of the Trail by passing HB1281 with overwhelming bi-partisan support in both the House (169-22) and Senate (48-2).

The urgent need for HB1281 had been highlighted by a recent decision by the Commonwealth Court to give municipalities the choice of remaining un-zoned if they so desired.  This decision could directly affect efforts to preserve Pennsylvanian’s piece of the Appalachian Trail, allowing for irresponsible development near the Trail.  Without legislation like HB1281, many parts of the Trail could lose their aesthetic and natural qualities forever.

Pennsylvanians from all walks of life care deeply about wild places like the Appalachian Trail. If they’ve hiked parts of the Trail or not, the state’s residents want to ensure that the Appalachian Trail is protected for now and for future generations of Pennsylvanians.  The state senate showed that it understands this support for preserving our wild places by passing HB1281 today.

Pennsylvania’s portion of the Appalachian Trail runs for 229 miles from the Delaware Water Gap in northeastern Pennsylvania, following the eastern rim of the Alleghenies (north of Reading and Allentown) before crossing the Cumberland Valley (near Harrisburg) on its way to Maryland at Pennsylvania’s southern border along the Susquehanna River.

The Trail is part of the National Park Service and is the first scenic trail in the U.S., designated in 1968.  Besides its historic importance, the Trail is home to dozens of threatened and endangered species, and many ecologists believe that the Appalachian Trail may contain the greatest level of biodiversity for any unit of America’s National Park Service.

The idea of the trail was originally created by Benton MacKaye.  He envisioned the trail to be a place in which city dwellers could escape to a majestic and beautiful wilderness.  If the trail is not protected properly from encroaching development, Benton MacKaye’s original idea would be lost.

When concerned citizens heard about some of the threats facing the state’s portion of the Appalachian Trail, PennEnvironment received comments from every corner of the Commonwealth and from Pennsylvanians of every walk of life in support of further protections for the Trail. Cleary the Trail is a part of our natural heritage that’s worth protecting, and today’s passage of HB1281 took a step in the right direction to ensure that that happens.”