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Study: Cash Hidden in the Allegheny National Forest

March 4, 2008

Warren, PA – Extra cash may be waiting to be discovered in the Allegheny National Forest. A new report connects wilderness areas proposed for the forest to the state's economy and finds some lucrative links.

The report's author, economist Spencer Phillips with The Wilderness Society, says recreational use is the most obvious way a wilderness area brings in cash. But there are other economic benefits, he notes, such as how protected land filters water to make it clean or lures new residents.

"The more people who are bringing income there and generating jobs and higher property values, the more that feeds back into the community and makes it more vibrant, healthy and diversified."

Critics of proposed wilderness say the designation would be an economic bust because timber harvests would be reduced. Supporters of wilderness point out there is room for both additional wilderness protection and timber harvest in the forest, and Phillips agrees, saying wilderness designation would not reduce timber production.

Kirk Johnson with the Friends of Allegheny Wilderness points out that wilderness proposals in the East pale in comparison to the number of acres protected as wilderness in the West. He says only 11 percent of forest land is protected as wilderness anywhere in the East.

"Most of the nation's population resides in the East. Its absolutely critical that we capitalize on every available opportunity to protect wilderness east of the Mississippi."

Eight citizen wilderness areas have been proposed for the Allegheny National Forest, covering about 54,000 acres.

The full report is available at www.pawild.org.

Deborah Smith/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - PA