Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources and Climate Change - Planning for the Future

This white paper outlines the impacts of climate change on the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)’s mission and lands, and provides adaptation strategies and a planning framework to address them.

DCNR is a land steward and the state’s leading conservation agency, aiming to directly mitigate GHGs in the department’s land management practices, as well as ensure that Pennsylvania’s public lands remain resilient and adaptable to climate change. The report suggests that the department can also serve as an example of climate-smart land management, green infrastructure development, and provide technical assistance and funding to help its constituents handle climate impacts.

The Current and Projected Impacts from climate change described for Pennsylvania are in the categories of:

  • Risks and Vulnerabilities to changes in weather
  • Forest/Ecosystem Health
  • Natural Community Changes
  • Pests, Pathogens, and Invasive Species
  • Employee Health and Safety
  • Infrastructure
  • Phenology and Growing Season
  • Water
  • Recreation
  • Economy

The report also lays out a framework for DCNR’s response to climate change, and provides direction and opportunities for both mitigation and adaptation. The framework describes vulnerability analysis, land management and species level adaptation strategies, agroforesty, geologic sequestration, along with recommendations for collaboration, outreach and education. 

The following are some of the recommendations are made for DCNR:

- As managers of one of the largest blocks of public land in the eastern U.S., the department needs to be cognizant of the role DCNR lands play in the movement of species in response to climate change. State parks and state forests will provide refugia and pathways for this movement and thus play a regional and even global role, and our management decisions need to take that into account.

- Identify and protect areas that are most resilient to climate change.

- Consider assisted migration, because the projected pace of climatic change is faster than most trees can migrate. 

- Collaborate with the many organizations actively studying the impacts of climate change on natural resources and assessing adaptation and mitigation strategies - to increase efficiency, reduce costs, save time, and prevent the department from reinventing the wheel or attempting failed approaches. (such as USGS, USFS and the Nature Conservancy)


The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is the caretaker of 2.2 million acres of State Forest land, 120 State Parks, advisor to the owners of 15 million acres of private forest land, and is the state’s primary conservation agency.


Publication Date: September 9, 2015


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:

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