Why You Should Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment

What will you be doing on May 18? Did you think that date was just like any other? Well, it is much more than that… it is the 50th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA)… and that means it is a time to celebrate!

The Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

A young legislator from Sunbury, PA named Franklin Kury introduced this amendment to the state constitution in April of 1969. Environmental protection, he said, “has now become as vital to the good life— indeed, to life itself—as the protection of those fundamental political rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, of peaceful assembly and of privacy.”

At first you might wonder, are environmental rights really as important as the right to free speech? But think about it…consider the mental and physical health benefits we get from a clean environment, not to mention myriad economic benefits as well.

The Benefits of Environmental Rights

Pennsylvania is lucky to have a wealth of public lands that are free and open to anyone to use. Spending time in these places is great for your health. Studies show that outdoor recreation reduces stress, anxiety and depression, lowers the risk of obesity, helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduces your risk of cardiovascular issues.

The trees in our parks and forests remove pollutants in rainwater before it can reach our rivers and streams, and from the air before we breathe it in. These same trees help to reduce flooding, by slowing the rate of water movement, reducing flood control and water treatment costs.

Having the funding support to build new playgrounds, like this one at Blue Knob State Park, is thanks in part to the Environmental Rights Amendment.

How You Can Celebrate

The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF) invites you to participate in a different engagement activity each month to show your support for environmental conservation and public lands.

  • In May, you may submit a piece of visual art on the topic of “what preservation of the scenic value” means to you.
  • On May 18, join PPFF, StateImpact Pennsylvania, and WITF for a free virtual screening and panel discussion on the ERA’s anniversary.
  • In June, you can submit an essay on cultural resources in our parks and forests, discussing what “preservation of the historic value” means to you.
  • Along with the monthly art and writing submissions, now through August 1, 2021 people can submit to a song contest.

View the complete list of ways to engage at https://paparksandforests.org/our-work/education/era50 and be sure to follow #PAEnviroRights50 to find more ways to engage with and celebrate this landmark piece of legislation.

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