Today is International Women’s Day, and March is Women’s History Month, so what better time to honor three Pennsylvania women who have made enormous contributions to environmentalism and conservation!
To be sure, this list could be many pages in length and still not capture the depths of all the amazing women environmentalists and conservationists Pennsylvania has to offer. Please feel free to respond to this email and tell us about your favorite women who have made a real difference in Pennsylvania!
For now, here is our list!
- Rachel Carson: No list would be complete without mentioning one of the most famous American conservationists of all time. Carson was such an enormous figure in the 20th Century that she is credited with advancing the environmental movement not just in Pennsylvania, but around the world. Born in 1907 on a family farm in Allegheny County, the famous author of “Silent Spring” attended the Pennsylvania College for Women - now known as Chatham University in Pittsburgh - earning a master’s degree in zoology in 1932. The U.S. Bureau of Fisheries hired Carson as a full-time biologist in 1936, only the second woman to be hired by the agency at that time. She continued writing and publishing environmental and conservation material, which culminated with the publishing of “Silent Spring” in 1962, a book so impactful that it is credited with jump-starting an environmental movement that culminated with the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.
- Rosalie Barrow Edge: Though not born in Pennsylvania, Rosalie Barrow Edge is responsible for the creation of the world’s first preserve for birds of prey: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Berks and Schuylkill counties. Born in New York in 1877, Edge spent decades watching the slaughter of hawks and eagles at Hawk Mountain before stepping in to do something about it. In 1934, Edge leased 1,400 acres of the site and hired wardens to keep hunters away from the area, effectively protecting the 20,000 hawks, eagles and falcons that migrate past the area every summer and fall. In 1960, Rachel Carson traveled to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and accumulated significant scientific data that enabled her to link the decline in the juvenile raptor population to the pesticide known as DDT, information that was included in “Silent Spring.” Today, Hawk Mountain is a National Natural Landmark and has expanded to include more than 2,500 acres, and continues to be one of the most essential spots for bird watchers on the East Coast.
- Beverly Braverman: Like others on this list, Beverly Braverman saw a problem and dedicated her life to fixing it. The problem, in this instance, is clean water being impacted by mine discharge and shale gas development. Braverman’s environmental advocacy kicked into high gear in 1994 when she and nine neighbors founded the Mountain Watershed Association in response to a proposed deep mine that would have added 3,000 acres of mine drainage to the already-impaired Indian Creek watershed in Fayette and Westmoreland counties. She became executive director of the organization in 1996 and, in 1998, developed a comprehensive restoration plan for the 125 square miles of the Indian Creek watershed and has been successful in implementing that comprehensive plan over the past 23 years. In 2003, Mountain Watershed Association was invited to submit a petition to the international Waterkeeper Alliance to become the Youghiogheny Riverkeeper. When it was accepted Braverman took on that role, and in 2006 was able to hire a new employee to fill that position. Since 2017, through state grants and other support, Mountain Watershed Association has funded over 80 projects through the Direct Support Project and has worked with more than 40 community groups on shale and coal issues. Braverman was a 2020 recipient of PennFuture’s “Women of Lifetime Achievement in Conservation” award, as part of our annual Women in Conservation awards.
Each year, PennFuture honors the accomplishments of exceptional women conservationists in Pennsylvania with these awards. The 2021 Celebrating Women in Conservation Awards are designed to encourage continuing excellence in conservation and to forge a stronger network of women working to protect Pennsylvania’s environment.
Since its inception in 2015, this event has traveled around the state to different communities to ensure recognition of local leaders, volunteers, and career professionals. For 2021 we are celebrating women in northeast Pennsylvania!
Do you know an exceptional woman living in northeast Pennsylvania who should be honored for her environmental work? Be on the lookout for nomination information, which will be released later this month.
In addition, be sure to SAVE THE DATE: a hybrid online/in person Women in Conservation awards event will take place on Thursday, September 9th. We hope to see you there!