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Environmental Protection


Lake Erie
Lake Erie

State and federal agencies collaborate in Pennsylvania to conserve and protect the environment. Pennsylvania’s two lead agencies in the environmental field were created in 1995 to replace the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is concerned primarily with regulatory matters. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources focuses on the management of land and wildlife resources. Federal agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The restoration of Pennsylvania’s woodlands has been an environmental achievement. Unregulated commercial lumbering during the 19th century had virtually wiped out the state’s forests. In 1897 the state began to purchase forest reserves, an act that marked the beginning of its scientific forest conservation program. By the 1980s, with the rigidly controlled cutting and planting of trees, about 6.8 million hectares (about 16.8 million acres), or more than half the state’s land area, were again forested. Of this amount more than 1.7 million hectares (4.3 million acres) were publicly owned. In recent years, water pollution has presented mounting problems in Pennsylvania, as it has elsewhere in the nation.

Vigorous cooperative action by the state and the city of Philadelphia has successfully cleaned up the badly polluted Schuylkill River, which supplies much of the city’s drinking water. The Delaware River, another once badly polluted stream, demonstrates that water conservation is often a regional, rather than a state, problem.

Pennsylvania shares the water of the Delaware with New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. In 1961 these states signed the Delaware River Basin Compact, which provided a long-range program to regulate and develop the water resources of the Delaware River basin. Lake Erie, which Pennsylvania shares with New York, Ohio, and Michigan, had become so badly polluted by industrial wastes and urban sewage during the early 1960s that it was called a dying lake. In 1965, the Lake Erie basin states and the federal government began to halt the lake’s severe pollution, and it has since made a significant recovery.

In 2008 Pennsylvania had 93 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. "Pennsylvania" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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