A weekly blog for all things conservation
By: Nathan Dewing, Agricultural Team Leader
Local farmers are receiving a new wave of “house calls” from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). These calls create some anxiety, so let’s try to get some background on where they are coming from.
As the calendar turned from 1899 to 1900, Pennsylvanians were feeling the effect of short-sighted forest management practices. Pennsylvania, meaning “Penn’s Trees”, was looking more like Penn’s desert. Turning our hopes to governmental oversight, Pennsylvanians created the Department of Forestry in 1905. This is when the commonly understood concept of a “state forest” arose, and many forest acres today have probably benefited from these decisions.
As the effort to regain healthy forests grew, added needs prompted Pennsylvanians in 1925 to transform this governing body into the Department of Forests and Waters. Continued natural resource interests led to the next change in 1970 when the department became the Department of Environmental Resources. In 1995, Pennsylvania doubled its governing by dividing this agency in two, creating both the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Today, DEP is responsible for enforcing most regulations concerning agriculture’s impact on natural resources.
Today’s house calls to local farms are for enforcement of law enacted by Pennsylvanians in 1971 to help minimize pollution. Updates in 1985 and 2005 bring the law to its current version. This law requires farmers to handle manure in acceptable ways. One of the requirements is for farmers to write down how they are going to do this. It is this written plan that DEP is asking to see at these house calls.
When a farm has this written out before DEP asks, it all goes quite smoothly. When a farm says, “I don’t have it written down,” then begins a sometimes prolonged exchange of letters, emails, plans, and anxiety. Having a plan written out at your own pace is by far the best approach, and anyone can ask the conservation district for help.
Reviewing our relatively short history is helpful. Likely at some point in the journey, Pennsylvania became a living force with risk of growing apart from Pennsylvanians. Our imperfect governing framework does not automatically prevent this. It is however, arguably the best yet developed for liberty loving people to keep it in check. Wherever you perceive this trend, clarify it and resist it. Sharpen your understanding of government’s rightful role. Renew your hope of a better system yet to come.
Pennsylvanians apparently value responsible resource management. How to achieve it and who is responsible is a lively discussion as it should be. If you get a house call, put it in perspective. You’re a Pennsylvanian. You have a say in the matter.
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.
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Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District