By PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo
Originally published in the Pocono Record
The streams, forests and mountains of the Poconos are nothing short of legendary, and these natural jewels have enabled businesses and tourism to flourish for decades.
This is why – as the state’s watchdog for clean air, pure water, and a healthy climate – PennFuture finds it important to respond to the Feb. 16 full-page ad in the Pocono Record, that decries, rather than celebrates, the state’s recognition that area streams have exceptional water quality.
It is easy for citizens to be fooled by the false choice between economic development and a clean environment. It’s a trap that polarizes communities into endless disagreements when, in fact, the history of this very region demonstrates that a clean environment, properly respected, promotes economic development.
The history of the Poconos is a history of residents that have viewed nature as an integral part of our community, to be used with love and respect, rather than as a commodity to be consumed with no effect on our community. Our foresight in protecting and respecting the environment is what has enabled businesses to draw millions of dollars to the local economy. Visitors come to ski in our mountains, fish in our streams, camp in our parks and walk on our trails. These visitors support local business because of the natural environment, not in spite of it. Famed conservationist Aldo Leopold referred to this view of nature as the land ethic, a philosophy that simply recognizes the interdependence between people and nature – that we, the land and men and women, are part of the same community.
The Poconos has served as a peaceful escape for everything that nature offers: places for quiet contemplation, vigorous hiking, thrilling hunting, and other activities that allow families to laugh, explore and play. Water slides, zip lines and ski slopes have flourished because of the surrounding natural environment. There is no need to choose between conservation of the environment and growth of our economy: we can have both. For that reason, our community should continue to celebrate protection of our streams, and firmly reject the notion that our community should be developed separately and apart from protection of our environment. We need both.
Through our Poconos office and staff, PennFuture looks forward to working with local business owners to build relationships and shared goals that will contribute to the natural beauty of our area, and successful, responsible development in the Poconos.