A few years ago, I wrote a registered letter to Gov. Ed Rendell explaining why I opposed his new Pennsylvania Wilds program to stimulate an economic boom in tourism throughout the pristine northcentral counties of the commonwealth. Proceeding with such a program without first establishing comprehensive preservation policies and development guidelines would eventually destroy the same natural resources that indeed make this region uniquely "wild."
I've been a professional open space planner for many years and co-authored Pennsylvania's 1970 comprehensive outdoor recreation plan (see Outdoor Recreation Horizons, 1970, Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters). This was the first study to identify and recommend preliminary preservation guidelines for what was then called the "North Central High Mountain Area."
Because of this work and many similar open space studies, I'm very aware of the many incompatibilities inherent in all such recreation/outdoor resource preservation scenarios. So I was not at all convinced by the two-page response letter of "assurances" I later received from Michael DiBerardinis, the governor's secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
But that was then. I feel much better now, since reading that the governor has just appointed Dan Surra, an out-of-work Democratic state representative from Elk County, to fill a new $95,000 per year position in the DCNR (see "Voodoo Economics: Rendell Freezes Jobs Until a Loyal Soldier Needs One," Jan. 17 editorial). And since it's actually two jobs, he'll be wearing two hats, both very environmentally sensitive: 1.) helping where needed in the Pennsylvania Wilds program, and 2.) being the "go-to guy" on the Marcellus Shale/gas drilling efforts. Eighteen years of loyal party politics sure is rewarding!
By the way, what's Mr. Surra's environmental experience or geotechnical know-how, Gov. Rendell? Does he have any of either? Any?
RICHARD M. VOELKER