Photo by Noah Shatzer
Here in south-central Pennsylvania, the South Mountain landscape boasts of a surprising convergence of diverse natural and cultural resources – resources that make the landscape unique and special. The South Mountain Partnership identifies four “Landscape Resources” as central to this region’s unique essence:
Mountains, Forests, Rivers and Streams, Vernal Ponds, Wildlife, Habitat Corridors, and Bird Flyways
Pennsylvania, by virtue of its geographic location, is where northern and southern species and ecological systems merge. In particular, because of the north-south orientation of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the South Mountain is an important corridor and repository for populations of rare and threatened species. The largely intact forests of the ridgeline not only provide important wildlife habitat, but also provide significant benefit to the surrounding communities – the bulk of pure, clean drinking water that our communities rely on is naturally filtered and stored within the mountains’ geology. Our local natural resources are central to the region’s drinking water, wildlife, and forest health – such resources shape the region’s unique identity, undergird the current and historical economic base, and create a wealth of recreational opportunities. As such, the Partnership works to conserve the South Mountain landscape’s natural resources, and supports ecologically grounded management and stewardship on public and private lands.
Gettysburg and Civil War History, Furnace Stacks, Museums, Historic Barns, the State’s First State Forest and Oldest State Park
The South Mountain region has a rich human history – a center of Native American activity, the 18thCentury European immigration, the iron industry’s boom in the 18th and 19th centuries, a contested Civil War landscape, and the roots of American forestry and the environmental movement. Physical remnants of many of these significant histories abound on the landscape today. This history continues to shape the landscape and our communities, and is critical to the region’s sense of place. As such, the Partnership works to preserve and share the South Mountain landscape’s storied human legacy.
Fertile Soil, Rolling Valleys, Hayfields and Cornfields, Dairy Cows, Fruit, and Farm Stands
With its history of human habitation, the South Mountain landscape too has a rich legacy of working lands. Agriculture has been historically and continues to be a leading industry within the region. The Cumberland Valley boasts some of the state’s best, most productive agricultural soils. The South Mountain Fruit Belt represents a unique melding of geology, topography and climate that makes it one of the best fruit production areas east of the Mississippi. And not to forget the forests of South Mountain: this region continues to be a source of timber and wood products. Families have farmed lands within the South Mountain landscape for generations. The Partnership believes that maintaining the economic viability of the region’s farms and forests is critical to conserving natural and cultural resources across the landscape. As such the Partnership works to support the region’s productive working farms and forests, and keep these as open, active, and sustainably managed.
The Appalachian Trail, World-Class Trout Fishing, Country Roads, and Multiple State Parks
Some 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail, the nation’s premier long-distance hiking trail, pass through the heart of the South Mountain landscape, and hundreds of miles of additional hiking trails can be found. The region is a fly-fishing paradise, with famous spring-fed fishing streams. Biking, bird-watching, Civil War battlefield tours and museums, “agri-tourism,” and more – the South Mountain landscape offers a diversity of recreation to appeal to almost any taste, and given its proximity to major population centers, it is emerging as a veritable outdoor playground. Recreational opportunities highlight a region’s natural, cultural, and economic resources, and the Partnership believes that investments in recreation are critical to rooting communities within the landscape. As such, the Partnership works to sustain the South Mountain region as a regional hub for outdoor recreation through sustainable stewardship of existing recreational infrastructure and well-planned additions to this infrastructure.