Stories from PA History
Story Details
Pennsylvanians and the Environment
Pennsylvania's abundant natural resources have always been essential to the development of the Commonwealth, just as its natural beauty has forever been a source of inspiration to its residents. Coal, timber, iron ore, and oil made Pennsylvania an industrial powerhouse, but their extraction and use also had a devastating impact on people, ecosystems, and the environment.

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Bring this subject into focus through the following chapters. These stories take exploration of the main story further by providing more detail for you to learn and explore.

Overview: Pennsylvanians and the Environment
Chapter One: Penn's Woods
Chapter Two: Exploitation and Renewal
Chapter Three: Creatures Great and Small

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon Beaver County (Beaver) marker icon Daniel Boone (Berks)
marker icon Elk County (Elk) marker icon First State Game Lands (Elk)
marker icon John Bartram (Philadelphia) marker icon Mill Grove (John James Audubon) (Montgomery)
marker icon Pigeon (Forest) marker icon Samuel Phillippe (Northampton)
marker icon Susquehanna Canal (York)

Lesson Plans for this Story
Take your students back in history with these discussions and activities for the classroom

Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text David Peterson De Vries, On the multitude of fish in the Delaware River, 1633.
icon full text William Penn, Frame of Government of Pennsylvania, February 2, 1683
icon full text John Fanning Watson, "Beasts of Prey and Game," 1857.
icon full text Edwin Haskell, Recollections of Passenger Pigeons in Potter County, PA, October 21, 1903.

1681 William Penn's charter mandates that settlers leave one acre of trees for every five acres cleared
1721 Pennsylvania's first game law limits when deer can be hunted.
1803 John James Audubon arrives at his father's estate at Mill Grove and begins his study of American birds
1840 Damming of the Susquehanna River at Columbia ends the shad runs on most the river and its tributaries.
1866 The Pennsylvania Fish Commission is created to restore the Commonwealth's diminishing shad fishery.
1877 John C. Decker of Centre County kills the last native elk in Pennsylvania.
1886 Pennsylvania Forestry Association is organized to lobby for protection of Pennsylvania's endangered forests.
1890 The Pennsylvania Sportsmen's Association is organized to press for government protection of the state's disappearing wildlife
1895 The Pennsylvania legislature creates the Department of Agriculture; Joseph Rothrock becomes the state's first Commissioner of Forestry
1898 The Pennsylvania Game Commission is created to protect the Commonwealth's endangered wildlife.
1903 The Pennsylvania legislature establishes the Mont Alto Forestry School, the first school in the nation to train foresters for work in state forests; the Milford Experimental Station, the nation's first professional forestry school, accepts its first students in Milford, PA.
1905 Gifford Pinchot becomes head of the new United States Forest Service
1905 Governor Samuel Pennypacker authorizes the establishment of "game preserves" in the state forests for the protection of deer, wild turkey, grouse, woodcock and other animals.
1913 Passage of the Resident Hunter's License Law provides the Commonwealth money to purchase and maintain its public game preserves, to protect endangered wildlife and to restore species native to the state.
1914 Martha, the world's last passenger pigeon, dies in the Cincinnati Zoo.
1916 Creation of the National Park Service
1920 Pennsylvania purchases first state game lands (State Game Land No. 25) in Elk County
1923 Establishment of the State Sanitary Water Board
1936 Major floods in Pennsylvania devastate towns along the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. In Johnstown, 9,000 are left homeless and 60,000 in need of food.
1938 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins construction of the Johnstown Flood Control Project, the nation's largest flood control system.
1946 David Lawrence wins election as mayor of Pittsburgh on the promise that he will revitalize the city by controlling the floods, beautifying the downtown, and cleaning up the air. Leading what becomes known as the Pittsburgh Renaissance, Lawrence delivers on those promises. By 1954, smoke pollution has been reduced by as much as 90 percent
1948 Temperature inversion engulfs the town of Donora in blanket of smog. By the time it ends, more than 7,000 people have become ill and twenty have died.
1955 Congress passes the nation's first clean air act, the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955
1959 When the Susquehanna River smashes through a mine of the Knox Coal Company, twelve men are killed in what becomes known as the Knox Mine Disaster.
1962 Publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring helps launch the modern Environmental Movement.
1963 Passage of the Clean Air Act of 1963
1968 Passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
1970 Passage of the Clean Air Act
1972 Congress bans DDT
1975 Publication of Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang
1977 The third Johnstown flood occurs, causing 78 deaths and $200 million in damage.
1979 The partial meltdown of Metropolitian Edison's Three Mile Island nuclear reactor near Harrisburg produces a dramatic shift in national energy policy, and results in the cancelling of orders for new nuclear power plants.
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