Natural Resources Development in the Pennsylvania Wilds: A Social-Ecological Systems Approach

Authors: Stacey Mack*, SUNY-ESF
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: conservation, natural resources, path dependence, social-ecological systems, sustainable development
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Despite their resource endowments, many of Pennsylvania's rural communities have struggled with poverty, often in connection with resource extraction practices and economic boom-bust cycles. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been understood as one potential source of renewed prosperity in the Marcellus Shale region. However, path dependence may propel these communities onto downward economic and ecological trajectories. Current measurement tools, such as census and employment data, reference negative outcomes, but these lenses are fragmentary. To more fully assess these complex dynamics, I use a Social-Ecological Systems (SES) framework to explore the interconnections between resource extraction, environmental impacts, and socio-economic influences. It was hypothesized that resiliency would be mitigated by economic diversification and resource availability. The social and ecological dimensions of energy resource development versus tourism in several northcentral Pennsylvania counties were examined. The environmental and economic impacts of the coal, oil, and natural gas industries, between 2007 and 2014, were analyzed using geospatial, socioeconomic, and water quality data, and resource development trends. Shifts in the economic base of the different resource sectors were quantitatively synthesized in the SES framework. System resiliency was observed, as was tension between resource development and conservation practices. This research offers stakeholders another decision-making and planning tool. To avoid the fate of path dependence, recommendations and policy indications are discussed. Stakeholders might consider their communities' use of renewable and nonrenewable resources in the quest for a trajectory that enhances resiliency and advances sustainability.

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