Efforts of the Pennsylvania Geological Survey to preserve Pennsylvania’s geological heritage

Shaulis, James R., and Dodge, Clifford H., Pennsylvania Geological Survey, DCNR, 3240 Schoolhouse Road, Middletown, PA 17057

The Pennsylvania Geological Survey (PaGS) has long engaged in formal and informal programs that address the preservation and utilization of geologic information and material. Such endeavors are often in cooperation with geologists and other professionals in government, industry, and academia, as well as with civic groups, volunteer organizations, and the informed public.

Recognizing the pending implementation of more stringent state regulations for backfilling surface coal mines and corresponding loss of numerous artificial exposures for future study, the PaGS began a formal program in 1966 to visit active mines in the bituminous coal fields to measure and sample stratigraphic sections. This Temporarily Available Stratigraphic Information Collection (TASIC) program was later expanded to cover other ephemeral exposures such as pipeline trenches, construction sites, and fresh roadcuts and to include documentation and archival storage of selected, representative diamond drill cores. A related effort is the acquisition of mine maps and records that are in danger of being lost or discarded by companies changing ownership or going out of business.

The PaGS has limited leverage outright to preserve geologically significant sites, but it works closely with other organizations and agencies to foster awareness and understanding. For example, the annual Field Conference of Pennsylvania Geologists brings together numerous geologists to examine and study important natural and artificial exposures. The PaGS works with other state agencies to recommend inclusion of outstanding geologic features into the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Index (PNDI) database. As designated PNDI sites, the features are afforded the same level of importance as endangered plants and wildlife have during the environmental review process that often precedes land development in Pennsylvania. The PaGS was instrumental in designating two National Historic Landmarks—Pulpit Rocks, Huntingdon County, and the J. Peter Lesley House, Philadelphia—and in securing land to protect the “Port Royal tufa” in Westmoreland County. Despite some successes, geologic sites abound for future preservation efforts, including the “whaleback” structure near Shamokin and the famous Pennsylvanian fossil-fern collecting locality near St. Clair.

Oral paper presented at the combined Annual Meetings of the Northeastern (39 th) and Southeastern (53 rd) Sections of the Geological Society of America, Tysons Corner, VA, March 27, 2004.


Shaulis, J. R., and Dodge, C. H., 2004, Efforts of the Pennsylvania Geological Survey to preserve Pennsylvania’s geological heritage: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 36, no. 2, p. 142.