Summary of major laws administered by DCNR

Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund Act, act of July 2, 1993 (P.L. 359, No. 50), 32 P.S. §§ 2011-2024


This act authorizes, subject to a referendum, the Commonwealth to incur indebtedness of $50,000,000 to fund nature preserves and wildlife habitats and improvements to and expansion of State parks, community parks and recreation facilities, historic sites, zoos, and public libraries. It establishes a fund, consisting of proceeds of the borrowing, if approved by the referendum, and the monthly transfer of a portion of the State Realty Transfer Tax.

The act allocates the fund to various state agencies, including DCNR.


The act directs DCNR to use its allocated funds to rehabilitate, upgrade, repair, and develop State park and forest facilities; acquire lands important to maintaining the integrity of existing State parks and forests; acquire recreation areas and natural areas; implement the Rails to Trails Act; make grants to municipalities and organizations for rivers protection and conservation; make grants to municipalities for rehabilitation and development of recreation and park facilities and areas; make grants to municipalities for the acquisition of recreation and park lands, greenways and natural areas; make grants to land trusts for the planning and acquisition of natural areas and open space; and make grants to municipalities and organizations for the rehabilitation and development of zoos.




Pennsylvania Scenic Rivers Act, act of December 5, 1972 (P.L. 1277, No. 283), 32 P.S. §§ 820.21-820.29


The purpose of this act is establish the Pennsylvania Scenic Rivers System to protect the outstanding aesthetic and recreational values of many of the rivers of Pennsylvania and to practice sound conservation policies and practices within the scenic rivers system.

Under the act, DCNR is required to study, conduct public hearings, and submit to the Governor and to the General Assembly proposals for the designation of rivers or sections of rivers as components of the Pennsylvania Scenic Rivers System. Rivers that may be designated as part of the System are classified as one of the following: wild, scenic, pastoral, recreational, and modified recreational.




Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail Act, act of April 28, 1978 (P.L. 87, No. 41), 64 P.S. §§ 801-805


This act implements Article I, section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution with respect to the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. It allows the Department to acquire from political subdivisions or private parties land, rights-of-way, and easements for the purpose of establishing, protecting, and maintaining the Appalachian Trail. It also empowers and requires municipalities to preserve and maintain sections of the Trail that pass through the municipalities.




Pennsylvania Conservation Corps Act, act of July 2, 1984 (P.L. 561, No. 112), 32 P.S. §§ 5501-5513.1


This act creates within the Department of Labor and Industry the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps. Young people between the ages of 16 and 25, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, are eligible to participate in work experience projects which are submitted by agencies listed in the act, one of which is DCNR.

The purpose of the work experience project is to provide corpsmembers with educational opportunities and job training skills and with work experience related to conservation, improvement or development of natural resources or the enhancement, preservation and maintenance of public lands, waters or facilities.




Rails to Trails Act, act of December 18, 1990 (P.L. 748, No. 188), 32 P.S. §§ 5611-5622


This act establishes within DCNR a rails to trails program. The purpose of the program is to acquire, operate, maintain and develop available railroad rights-of-way for public recreational trail use.

DCNR is authorized by the act to coordinate with the Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission with respect to certain matters involving the availability and development of trails.




Wild Resource Conservation Act, act of June 23, 1982 (P.L. 597, No. 170), 32 P.S. §§ 5301-5314


The purpose of this act is to preserve and enhance flora and fauna species, including those that are rare or endangered, which are not commonly pursued, killed or consumed either for sport or profit.

To carry out this purpose, the act creates a Wild Resource Conservation Fund supported by voluntary contributions. The Department of Revenue is directed to provide a check-off on the Pennsylvania State income tax return forms so that voluntary contributions to the fund may be made from income tax refunds. The act also authorizes raising money for the fund by the sale of items of personal property.

The act directs DCNR to conduct an investigation to determine the status of wild plants; creates an enforcement system to protect endangered, threatened, and vulnerable wild plant species; creates a permit procedure for persons interested in wild plant management; creates a commercial license procedure for persons who purchase vulnerable plants with the intent to sell them; and authorizes DCNR to create a statewide system of private wild plant sanctuaries.

DCNR has adopted regulations, at 17 Pa. Code Chapter 45, to implement this act. The regulations establish a plant classification system, create permit and license procedures, establish restrictions regarding threatened, endangered, and vulnerable plants, and provide for the designation of sites as private wild plant sanctuaries.




Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law, Chapter 77 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S. §§ 7701-7753

This law, which is a chapter of the Vehicle Code, establishes requirements for registration and liability insurance coverage of snowmobiles; registration and certificates of title for ATVs; and operation of and equipment for snowmobiles and ATVs. It also creates enforcement authority and procedures.

DCNR has adopted regulations, at 17 Pa. Code Chapter 51, to implement the Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law. These regulations address matters involved in the registration of the vehicles, such as fees, display of numbers, and temporary registration. They also address safety training, accident reporting, operation on state-owned lands, designation of roads, and equipment requirements.




Water Well Drillers License Act, act of May 29, 1956 (1955 P.L. 1840, No. 610), 32 P.S. §§ 645.1-645.13


The purpose of this act is to provide the Commonwealth with information on Pennsylvania's groundwater resources. The information serves as basic data for geologic mapping and groundwater investigations which are used to estimate the availability of Pennsylvania's groundwater, so that it can be managed and protected.

The act requires water well drillers to obtain from DCNR an annual license. The license allows the driller to operate one drilling rig. For every additional rig operated during the license year, the driller must pay a rig permit fee.

The amount of the fees is established in the Administrative Code of 1929, at 71 P.S. § 240.7A. The annual license fee is $60 and the rig permit fee is $20.

The act requires drillers to keep records of each well, and to make them available to DCNR upon request. The act also requires drillers to file with DCNR a notice of intention to drill, within 24 hours of making a contract to drill a well.

DCNR has adopted regulations, at 17 Pa. Code Chapter 47, to implement this act.




Project 70 Land Acquisition and Borrowing Act, act of June 22, 1964 (Sp.Ses., P.L. 131, No. 8), 72 P.S. §§ 3946.1-3946.22


This law implements Article VIII, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which provides that



. . . the Commonwealth may be authorized by law to create debt and to issue bonds to the amount of $70,000,000 for the acquisition of land for State parks, reservoirs and other conservation and recreation and historical preservation purposes, and for participation by the Commonwealth with political subdivisions in the acquisition of land for parks, reservoirs and other conservation and recreation and historical preservation purposes, subject to such conditions and limitations as the General Assembly may prescribe.


The act authorizes the Commonwealth and political subdivisions to acquire suitable lands by eminent domain. Under the act, no lands acquired pursuant to the act may be disposed of or used for purposes other than for recreation, conservation and historical purposes without the express approval of the General Assembly.