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Michele Long, recently retired executive director of the Pike County Conservation District and a Big Thinker! PHOTO SUPPLIED

The ‘Big Think’ with Michele Long

| March 25, 2024

A series of conversations with people who have worked in and for the watershed, sharing their expertise and knowledge.

Here’s Michele Long, one of Our Big Thinkers — that’s an occasional series of interviews with people who have long experience in our basin, who have recently retired. 

Long was the executive director of the Pike County Conservation District. There are 66 conservation districts in Pennsylvania. Wherever you live in the state, there’s a conservation district nearby.

What is a conservation district? 

A conservation district is the local resource for its community when it comes to anything natural resource related in Pennsylvania. Its staff have the technical knowledge to answer questions regarding local natural resource concerns. If they don’t have the answer, they know who will, as they work with a large network of local, state and federal partners who also work to protect the natural resources in the local community. 

What does it do? 

Each district is different, based on the community needs. It reaches out to the community on a regular basis to gauge their concerns and work to provide information and services. Historically, Pike County residents’ main concern has been protecting water quality. In recent years, invasive species have grown as a concern as well. 

What are the stream designations in Pa? How are some/all of Pike County’s streams classified? 

All streams in Pike County are either Exceptional Value or High Quality. From the 2023 Water Quality Report: 

“Pike County contains over 1,800 miles of streams. These streams are almost all within the Pennsylvania Code, Title 25, Chapter 93, Water Quality Standards for either High-Quality (HQ) or Exceptional Value (EV). It is rare a county possesses surface water quality such as this and thus it is critical to monitor the conditions. Recreational activities focused on the surface water and the resources tied to it are also of vital importance to Pike County residents and the economy.”

What is Smart Growth? 

Smart growth is land development that works with the land first and foremost. Does it fit? 

In the case of large development projects, it also needs to take into consideration the community needs and concerns. There needs to be a balance. How does this development help the community grow with jobs and income but still respect the natural resources that the community feels are important? 

It is a delicate balance that leadership needs to ask when new growth comes into the community. And that leadership is at the local level. 

There’s recently been a lot of energy expended over the possibility of a warehouse just north of Milford. Why didn’t the PCCD get involved? 

Most large land development projects in the county, any county, are reviewed on some level by the district. The district is presented plans that have to be reviewed and have to meet certain state regulations. 

It would be highly inappropriate for a district to make comments on the pros and cons of a development project that the district has to review. That does not mean that the district does not provide technical assistance to the community on the pros and cons of how land development can impact the local resources. 

If you could tell environmentalists and developers one thing, what would it be?

Listen! Everything is not black and white. There is a balance, there is a middle ground, 98 percent of the time. Finding that middle ground takes conversations and the willingness to listen. 

Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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