Winter 2009


Managing your land sustainably

by Jessica Sprajcar

Sustainable Landscape
Plan to attend the "Sustainable Landscapes Conference," April 1
Photo by Bob Steiner

It seems like all we hear nowadays are the terms "sustainable" and "being green," but what do they actually mean? "Sustainability," for our purposes, is achieving a balance between adequately providing for human needs, while protecting all other forms of life and natural resources, both now and in the future. The term "being green" can cover a wide range of things, from recycling to energy efficiency and from eating organic to walking rather than driving.

The benefits of managing lands in a sustainable manner are numerous. Money and other valuable resources can be conserved when inputs such as herbicides and mowing are reduced. Increasing native plantings has many environmental, health and economic benefits, including reduced flooding and erosion; air and water pollution filtration; increased biodiversity; and more attractive communities, to name just a few.

The following are some principles for managing lands for improved environmental quality, without losing the useful, human-friendly aspects of the land. Additional principles can be found in the DCNR publication, "Creating Sustainable Community Parks;" available on the website

  • Minimize turf areas by planting warm season grass meadows and gardens.
  • Choose to retain and plant native trees, shrubs and wildflowers, rather than nonnative exotics.
  • Remove invasive species, monitor areas so they do not return and retreat areas as needed.
  • Minimize impermeable surfaces, like roads, parking lots and paved trails by replacing asphalt and concrete with permeable pavement, mulch paths, gravel lots and native vegetation.
  • Surround streams, ponds, wetlands and other water bodies with a riparian buffer. Ideal buffers are 100 feet or more on each side, but smaller ones still have some benefits.
  • Use alternative energy sources and reduce overall energy consumption, through the use of solar, wind, geothermal, energy efficient appliances, hybrid vehicles, etc.

To help raise awareness of environmentally-friendly landscape design and maintenance, DCNR, in conjunction with a variety of organizations, is planning a 1-day "Sustainable Landscapes Conference" on April 1, at The Milton S. Hershey School - Founders Hall in Hershey, Pa. This conference follows on the success of the first-ever "Creating Sustainable Community Parks Conference," which took place at DeSalesUniversity, in the Lehigh Valley, this past October.

On April 1, conference attendees will learn about natural stormwater management, invasive species control, local sustainable agriculture, connecting children with nature, and much more. Anyone whose work deals with recreation, agriculture, pollution-prevention, water issues, environmental education, landscaping, green buildings, etc. will find sessions of interest. A modest $31 registration fee covers meals, handouts and carbon-offset credits to help make this conference as environmentally-friendly as possible. The registration form will be available on DCNR’s website soon, so stay tuned for more details.

We hope to see you at the Milton Hershey School Founders Hall on
April 1 for the first-ever "Sustainable Landscapes Conference."

Questions about the conference can be directed to Jessica Sprajcar via e-mail to

Previous Article


Pennsylvania Wild Resource Program