South Mountain Partnership provides “report card” on local environment

The South Mountain Partnerhip’s (SMP) “Our Environment and Health in the South Mountain Region: A Report Card” is its first comprehensive review of regional environmental health.

Read the complete report here.

South mountain partnership

The analytical document provides a detailed assessment of the environmental and health indicators of the South Mountain region, which includes Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York Counties. The region, spanning over one million acres, is a diverse landscape known for its natural beauty, rich history, agricultural lands, and recreational areas.

SMP, working with county planning staff and local experts, developed this report card to provide a comprehensive overview and to guide the sustainable development and conservation efforts in the area.

The report card evaluates the region across five critical sectors: Nature, Agriculture & Food, History & Culture, Outdoor Recreation, and Public Health. It employs a rating system to categorize the status of various metrics into three categories: green (good), orange (needs improvement), and red (urgent attention required).

In the Nature category, the report focuses on the condition of streams and creeks, emphasizing that nearly half of the region’s waterways are classified as impaired, affecting both the ecosystem and water quality for human use. The significance of riparian buffers, wetlands, and forested land is highlighted for their roles in maintaining ecosystem balance, preventing floods, and supporting biodiversity. Despite the challenges faced by the natural environment, efforts in land preservation have shown positive results, with an increase in non-farmland preserved areas.

The Agriculture & Food sector is crucial to the region, not only for local consumption but also for its contribution to the national food supply. The report indicates a slight decrease in the total acreage of farmland and orchards, but it also notes a significant increase (24%) in preserved farmland since 2010. This suggests a strong commitment to maintaining agricultural land for future food security and preserving the farming heritage of the area.

History & Culture are deeply ingrained in the South Mountain region, with a rich collection of historic places and objects. The report notes a 104% increase in documented historic assets since 2010, highlighting the region’s dedication to preserving its historical heritage and utilizing it as a driver for tourism and local identity.

Outdoor Recreation is presented as not only essential for the well-being and lifestyle of the community but also as a contributor to the local economy. The report underlines the accessibility to trails and parks, with almost 80% of the population living within a 10-minute drive of a trailhead. However, it also points out the need for improved pedestrian access to these recreational amenities.

Public Health metrics focus on air quality, extreme weather events, and their implications for community health. The report presents a mixed picture, with a decrease in days with poor air quality but an increase in extreme heat and rain days, highlighting the challenges posed by climate change. The region has seen a 9% increase in extreme heat days and a 129% increase in extreme rain days from the previous decade, emphasizing the need for adaptive measures and infrastructure improvement to mitigate these impacts.

Overall, the report card serves as a comprehensive resource for understanding the current state of the South Mountain region’s environment and health. It underscores the importance of continued monitoring, community involvement, and informed decision-making to safeguard and enhance the region’s resources for future generations. The document calls for ongoing data collection and analysis to ensure that actions taken are well-informed and effective in addressing the region’s needs and challenges.

The South Mountain Partnership is a collaborative network of people and organizations protecting and promoting the agricultural, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the region in Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties of southcentral Pennsylvania. To stay abreast of SMP, subscribe to the newsletter at SMP is financed in part by a grant from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, the Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.

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