Environmental Voices: The PennFuture Podcast

The Advocacy of Jacquelyn Bonomo

May 31, 2022 PennFuture - Hosted by M. Travis DiNicola Season 1 Episode 4
Environmental Voices: The PennFuture Podcast
The Advocacy of Jacquelyn Bonomo
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 4 of “Environmental Voices: The PennFuture Podcast” celebrates the career and advocacy of Jacquelyn Bonomo, PennFuture's President and CEO who will retire in July after a brilliant 40-year career.  

Bonomo, who first came to PennFuture as the organization’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in August 2016, has served as the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer since October of 2017. Her work in environmental advocacy started as a volunteer with the Sierra Club, and concludes with her leading a period of sustained growth at one of Pennsylvania’s most influential environmental organizations, PennFuture. In between, Bonomo has had a front row seat to some of the most important conservation developments of the last four decades, working at the national level and in 24 states and U.S. territories. 

In this episode, we tried to honor Bonomo's tremendous career by chatting with people who have worked closely with her over the last 40 years. 

Our guests include:  

· Charles Bier, who is the Senior Director for Conservation Science at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Before coming to PennFuture, Bonomo spent nearly a decade at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as that organization’s vice president of conservation programs. From 1999 to 2008, Jacqui was responsible for budgeting, planning and administration of the largest natural resource conservation program in the region, with staff in eight locations. She also increased the organization’s operating budget from $1 million to $5.7 million and grew staff from eleven to over 80 through 2007. 

· Cindy Adams Dunn, who has served as the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources since 2015. From 2013 to 2015, Dunn served as the president
and CEO of PennFuture. Like Bonomo, Dunn is one of the most noteworthy
environmental advocates in Pennsylvania over the last several decades. 

· Tim Ference, with Friends of the Nescopeck, which is where Bonomo's environmental advocacy began.  

Speaker 1:

Welcome back to another edition of environmental voices, the Penn future podcast. My name is Travis de Nicole Penn . Future is director of development and your host environmental voices is sponsored by Penn future Pennsylvania's watchdog for clean air, clean water and clean energy. You can find out more and become a member@pennfuture.org. On the third episode of environmental voices, we spoke with three women previously honored by Penn future as part of our annual celebrating women in conservation awards. These are women who are still doing big things in conservation and environmental matters in Pennsylvania, and we cherish the opportunity to catch up with them, to tell their stories. We hope you enjoyed the conversation too. Today. We wanted to honor another woman who has spent her entire career advocating for a cleaner, healthier environment across the United States, but particularly here in Pennsylvania, she is near and here to our hearts of Penn future because she is our president and CEO, and she is retiring in July after a stellar 40 year career in environmental advocacy. If you followed our work over the last several years, Jackline Bonomo should be no stranger to you. She first came to Penn future in 2016 as our executive vice president and chief operating officer and has served as the organization's president and chief executive officer since October of 2017 under Jackie's leadership. Penn future's staff team grew from 17 to 25 and now includes contractors that augment Penn future's capacity and environmental and democracy advocacy. Since her promotion into the role of president Penn future has raised over 11.5 million in philanthropic funding enabled the addition of legal policy, civic engagement, democracy, and field capacity and expansions into Pennsylvania's mid-size talents and communities. Jackie also helped Penn future navigate unprecedented waters during the global COVID 19 pandemic and her steady leadership ensured that the organization emerged in the pandemic a stronger, more impactful organization than before Jackie's work in environmental advocacy started as a volunteer with the Sierra club and concludes with her leading a period of sustained growth in one of Pennsylvania's most influential environmental organizations in between. She has had a front row seat with some of the most important conservation developments of the last four decades working at the national level and in 24 states and us territories highlights of her career include the brokering of the Northwest forest plan during the Clinton administration to save the old growth forest in wild salmon runs of the Pacific Northwest, the early emergence of Chesapeake bay as an imperiled nationally, significant estuary and treasure in need of restoration and the 1990 reauthorization of the clean air act, which curb sulf emissions to mitigate acid rain and mark the beginning of alternative energy fuel standards. Today, we wanna honor Jackie's tremendous career by dedicating this episode to her and by chatting with people who have worked closely with Jackie over the last 40 years, there's no better place to start this episode about Jackie than to talk with Jackie herself. Jackie, welcome to environmental voices.

Speaker 2:

Thanks for having me Travis.

Speaker 1:

Oh, it is great to have you. We've all been looking forward to this conversation very much and , uh , appreciate you taking the time. I know you're a little busy right now in the last few months of your tenure at Penn future, but , uh, we wanna make , make this broadcast about not just your career, but your influences and looking at how you've gone here and other organizations you've worked with. So I'm gonna start by asking you were a English major at Penn state. If I recall correctly, how did that turn into a career as a leader in the environmental movement?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's, that's a great question, Travis. Uh, well, you know, I mean, I guess I'll start with the fact that I'm not really sure the academic education was as formative on where I ended up and the point in my life that I landed at that made me realize that , um, environmental advocacy was what I wanted to do. Uh, and so I'm gonna even go back a little bit further talk about just a couple of times , uh , as a kid or , or as a young person where there were, you know, things that were going on in my community or in my school that I felt , uh , weren't quite appropriate and so wanted to do something about it. I'll just kinda give one example , uh , as weird as it may sound when I was in high school , uh , we were always allowed to go out for lunch. Uh , and as it turned out , uh, I actually lived just about a block and a half from my high school, but the administration decided that they wanted to , uh , but they were gonna close lunches , uh , and we'd have to stay in the building. And I was one of the people that organized a strike , uh , and , and , uh , we certainly got the attention of the administration and, and the media, we actually ultimately were not able to get the policy changed, but , um, it was an empowering time. And , uh, I don't know, maybe gave me some bravery that I was able to build on in , uh , in , uh , uh , in the days that, you know, when we fast forward 10 years to kind of when the environmental work got started, if you will, mm-hmm, <affirmative>

Speaker 1:

Sure. Well , that's, that is not a story I'd heard from you before. Uh , I can , I can picture you as a , as a high school activist though. Uh , certainly. And , uh , and that impulse to , uh , to make change. I mean, it's , it's always been there for you

Speaker 2:

For sure.

Speaker 1:

So let's look at the, the environmental movement though, specifically. I mean , I know you grew up, you know, in, in , uh , Hazleton and, you know , loving going outside and that's always been a big part of your life, fishing, kayaking, hiking , uh, how did that, that all connect for you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, I grew up in Hazleton , Pennsylvania, and still spend a lot of time there. And you know, that, that is the heart of the answer psych coal region. And, you know , literally when I looked out , uh, my window , uh , I was able to see cold breakers out in the, in the distance. Mm . And , uh , see pretty visibly , um, what , uh , that kind of , um, uh, what kind of impacts that had on the landscape and on the water , uh , and on the air , uh , and on the health of, you know, people that I loved who were working in that industry, or, you know, or, or, you know, past , past relatives, mm-hmm <affirmative>. So, you know , that was, that was clearly there. Um, I, I don't know that I realized , uh , that the thread that, that would , um, kind of extend , uh , to where I am to where I am now and the kind of work that we do at Penn future, but it certainly kind of wrapped up the environmental ethic as well as the justice ethic . Um, and, and certainly a life lesson around why we need to do so much better , uh , particularly for people and communities as we transition. And we transition urgently , um , into a , a , a cleaner energy economy , um, you know, here in Pennsylvania and , and beyond if you will .

Speaker 1:

Sure. Yeah. I mean, you can connect the dots looking back, but , uh, you know, at that point, you know , it maybe wasn't as obvious what was your, your first environmental job that you had?

Speaker 2:

Well, you know, my first environmental job was, was actually as a volunteer and it's, it's sort of how it all got started. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I was putting out west and , uh , I didn't wanna spend a second winter in Jackson hall , much as I love skiing. And so I took some time and came back to Pennsylvania to wait out the winter and spend a lot of time in a place called NECA pet Creek, that as it turns out, the state had slated to flood , um, a flood the valley of the ESCA pet Creek and form a state park and lake there. And , uh, I knew that this was an incredibly special place, particularly from a , not only a water quality perspective, but just fantastic habitat for a great array of wildlife and plants. It was just really a special place. And my impulse was again , uh , to say, I don't think this is something that should be done, and I'm not gonna let them do it, or at least I'm gonna , I'm gonna try to stop it and, and, and became a volunteer at the Sierra club , uh, and, and kind of went to work. And it was through that , um, through that probably year plus of volunteer work, that I then came in contact with the national wildlife Federation and Larry Schweiger in particular , uh , I was attending a lobbying workshop that he was doing , um , up in Wilkes spar for , uh , some of my colleagues at an organization that was called the Pennsylvania Federation of sportsman club and attended that workshop and spent some time talking to Larry about what then was an aspiration to kind of make this into a career. And , uh, that led to national wildlife Federation , uh , actually hiring me for my first job. Uh, and , uh, I guess that was 37 years ago. And, and , uh, yeah, and now we're at retirement, so there we go.

Speaker 1:

Well , you know, and , and so many things in that, I mean, first off, we're gonna hear from the friends of the pec a little bit later in this podcast, which was great. Uh , of course , uh, you took over when from Larry Schwager when you became the president CEO of Penn future. And then in terms of the national wildlife Federation, you know , Penn future is the state affiliate of NWF. So there's, I mean, so many connections , uh , to the work that you've done , uh , throughout your career.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Uh , and if there's like a general ward of advice , uh it's, you know, we , we should never leave no stone unturned , um, in kind of pursuing our dreams and our , and our passions. And I think that that's, you know, partially why I've, why I've been able to, I , I say, would say , keep working in this field mm-hmm <affirmative> , um, with really took advantage of the opportunities that were given to me. I understand that not everyone can do that, but , um, I did, and, and it's been really, really fulfilling.

Speaker 1:

Tell me about some of the other places you've had a chance to work. Let's start with , uh, uh , the Chesapeake bay funders network. What exactly is that organization?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, that was a pretty brief stint in philanthropy mm-hmm <affirmative> so that would've been the position that I took just prior to joining Penn future and several of the foundations that had interest in the Chesapeake bay, hi , were in the process of hiring their first executive director mm-hmm <affirmative> . And I was, I did that job , um, and worked at it, I think for roughly about a year and worked with the funders to really put together , um , strategy at that time, it was around , uh , the watershed implementation plan for the Chesapeake , uh , but help them kind of suss out the opportunities that were available to them as funders, where they could make a difference , um, in what, you know, what parts of , uh , of their, their strategy, what , what parts of the overall strategy could be affected through their philanthropy. Uh, so, so that was, you know, a regional , uh , a regional effort. Um , and , and , uh , it was , uh , it was very interesting to be able to work on that , on that side of the , uh , uh , of the aisle , if you will .

Speaker 1:

And then prior to that , uh , you were with Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, correct?

Speaker 2:

Actually, no, prior to that, I was looking for the national Autobon society.

Speaker 1:

Ah , I jumped one there. Okay . <laugh>

Speaker 2:

He did jump one . I , I was with Aon for five years and I, I worked , uh , I was a vice president , uh , in their Maryland and DC , um, program. So again, that's kind of a connection to the Chesapeake bay. Sure. Uh , right . I joined Aban person by the name of David Arnold had, had just started as president and he tapped me and a woman named test president who was a , a scientist , uh , at the, at Aon to lead the strategic plan , uh, the , the next strategic plan of the organization. And, and that was a plan that really described bird conservation through the lens of, of flyways. And , um, there's a really interesting, a really interesting opportunity, but again, to go to the job before that sure. That was not , that was the nine years that I spent at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. And we could talk a little bit more that about that, but one of the big parts of my work there , um, had to do with overseeing a staff of , um, scientists that made up the Pennsylvania heritage program. And the work of that particular program is through field work . Uh, these ecologists, these staff and data collection essentially describe the status of nature in Pennsylvania with an eye toward the threatened and endangered and the , the connection between that position and Aban is of course science. And so , um, it was just a really great opportunity to , uh, sort of take all the learnings and the theories of conservation biology in particular that I learned at , um , Western Pennsylvania Conservancy from the terrific staff there into Aon and, oh, by the way, even at Penn future mm-hmm <affirmative> when we think about , um , the work that we're gonna do that we do, we tend to , um, use a similar approach. We we're looking at the greatest threats to the resources and basically work backwards around tactics and strategies to address those threats. So , um, it's just a process and a continuum. That's got some interesting threads through , uh , my last three positions .

Speaker 1:

Well, this leads me to wanting to try to better understand you as a leader, Jackie, because so much of the work that you've done and that we do at Penn future, you know, is a combination of having a , a deep understanding of the science and the policy, but also in the organizing those three areas coming together. And I , I'm just curious, you know, for you, what do you see out of those three as , as your greatest strength, perhaps?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think for me , um, I have had a lot of different experiences in a lot of different places around the United States that exposed me to different policies , um, uh , different, different kinds of outreach, different kinds of organizing and advocacy. And I think it's helped me develop , uh , a worldview , um, and a , and a big picture approach to things. So I think that for me, the fact that I see a bigger picture , um, and can connect the thoughts and ask the probing questions around why the work that we pursue is going to , you know, rectify correct, save , protect , uh , whatever it is that that we're aspiring to do. But I do think it's that big picture piece and the desire to be strategic and to kind of encourage other people , um, to, to, to be the same because , um, I I'm a generalist. And as you said, I have exposure and I have skill sets , um, in integrate many things on the other hand, you know, I'm not, I'm not a , a specialist. Uh , and I don't see that as , uh , a vulnerability. I , I see it as a strength , um, or at least a strength that I've been able to build on , um, uh , throughout my career.

Speaker 1:

And we certainly have some of those specialists on staff to if , if we ever need to consult with them . So with Penn future , as you're approaching your retirement , looking, you know, back on, on your career as the president CEO of the organization, is there anything that's really surprised you from what you expected the experience to be like?

Speaker 2:

Well, I, I, I don't know if it's around the experience though . I'll try to give that some thought when I, when I share what first comes to mind,

Speaker 1:

Please,

Speaker 2:

And that is that I guess I am just overwhelmingly surprised and, and I will just say disappointed at the politics , um, and the divide in our, in our state and , and why it has been so for us to find common ground. Uh, and I , I say that because, you know, again, back to back to PAC , back to the time, the 13 years that I spent at national wildlife Federation, there was, there was such a unity of purpose and common ground, you know, particularly among , um , you know, hunters, anglers , uh , rural Pennsylvanians or rural people, if you will. I mean, it wasn't a , a blissful marriage by any stretch of the imagination, but it , it , it was a marriage where we worked around our, our pro our problems for the greater good. And in that case, the greater good was always, you know, conservation or environmental protection. So the surprise been just how quickly , um, I guess maybe it is it wasn't quickly, but , um, how, how , how , uh , how divided we've become and how difficult it is to envision a path back to unity and , and more of a commonality of, of , of purpose for whatever reason. I've been thinking a lot lately about the county that I live in Luther earned county and how , uh, it's such a tough place to live and , uh , to grow and to prosper for people that are here. And there's this element. Um, we , we hear a lot about the , you know, the forgotten rural areas, the forgotten small towns and communities. Um, and, and I, I wanted , I , I acknowledge that it , in least in this part of the world, it was not always that way, because when coal , when after site coal was king, the region thrives. And so I've been thinking, you know, philosophically about that, but I also think about, you know, our relationship to a place, you know, our sense of place and, you know, how can we ever be passionate , um, and, and fighters for these places, you know, particularly when we see them destroyed , uh , whether it's through fracking or through, you know , mining any, any, any con consumptive use that , um , from which there is a very, very difficult , um , uh , rehabilitation, if you will. Um , you know , we talk about extractive uses such as logging for example, but we know, well , we know that forest regenerate, it's a little bit different when you're talking about , um, you know, the impacts that , uh , uh , mining in particular has had across this landscape and, and, and just as insidious , um, uh, extraction of other fossil fuel resources, such as , um , fracked gas and oil to a certain extent here.

Speaker 1:

Sure, sure. So let's talk about the successes that you've had because there have been many at Penn future over the past few years that we wanna celebrate. Uh, I , the fight is always there, but , uh , there have been times where , uh, certainly you and the organization have come up on top. Tell me , uh, share with me if you will, some of your , uh, uh , favorite moments of that.

Speaker 2:

Well, I mean, one favorite moment that comes to mind is , uh, just a few weeks ago on earth day when , uh , the regional greenhouse gas initiative became a , a , a program official program of the state of Pennsylvania , um , in the state of Pennsylvania. So this has been Penn future's , uh , climate priority , uh , for almost , uh , starting almost three years ago when governor Wolf , uh , uh , issued his executive order , um , asking DEP to figure out what it would take to get into that program. And while , um, uh, uh , we are in court , uh, as, as was expected , um, it was a win and as , uh , Matt step , our chief of staff , uh , an executive vice president who will step in , um , after me in an interim role, when I, when I retire, likes to say, it's a Pennsylvania victory, so, you know , hardly, hardly clean. Um, so that's, that's at the top of mind. Um, the other thing that I, I would just wanna mention I is, is the, let's just say success that I I've had, I think at obviously with help of a lot of other people at Penn future and other organizations that I've worked at , where I've been able to build an organization , um, professionalize it, stabilize finances, grow because at the end of the day, you know, it's, it's, it's the organization's ability to sustain mm-hmm , <affirmative> , um , the resources that employ people to do the work and give them the tools that they need. Um, so that's really important, and I think can't be , um, understated. And, and so when I look at the, the money that's been raised or the, you know, the people that we've been able to employ , uh, and the sort of talent that have been given opportunities , um, to me that has been , uh , uh , a success , um, albeit maybe a weird and very personal, but nevertheless, super gratifying success to me personally.

Speaker 1:

Well, certainly, certainly. I mean, what do you see as an organization? Penn future's greatest strengths are

Speaker 2:

Our , our strengths are, are people mm-hmm , <affirmative> , there's , there's , you know, our , our , our people and , oh , by the way, are very smart and talented and committed and energetic , um, uh , people that make up the , the compliment of the staff. We also have got a fantastic board of directors and, and the folks that are listening to this , uh , podcast today are, are probably people that have that help our organization do its work , um, in so many ways. Uh , I'm sure we've got advocates listening. I'm sure we've got a few donors listening. So , um, at the end of the day , uh , organizations are ultimately , um, really just about, they're just collections of people , uh , and it's people that make the organization and , uh , we've got a fantastic , uh , we've got a fantastic compliment. The organization also has, I mean, even though we are just about 22, 23 years old, just this broad , uh , this , this short , but mighty history of accomplishments that sort of started in the early days with some super impactful victories , uh , particularly around energy policy, energy choice, things along those lines fighting the coal industry. Mm-hmm , <affirmative> that carries, I think the organization and our influence today and, and our influence and excellent reputation today .

Speaker 1:

Jackie , what would you ask that people who support environmental causes and future specifically to do or do more of as we move forward in this fight?

Speaker 2:

Well, I mean, the first thing we gotta do is keep going , uh, we, we , we can't be deterred. Um , we can't get discouraged and above all , um, we can't get cynical , uh, and I've like, I've grown full end of saying lately. Um, don't get cynical , uh , get political. Uh , and so , uh, I think everybody knows what that means. Um, we need good people , uh , who care about our issues to run for office. We need people who care about our issues to vote. Uh , we need people who care about our issues to make sure that everybody know that's, that's registered to vote. That's eligible, eligible to vote is registered to vote, and everyone that's registered to vote get is out there voting. So , um, to me, it's, it's, we gotta keep going. Uh , that's, that's the most important thing we , we gotta keep going. We got to , uh , keep the, keep the flame going and the passion , uh , the passion burning bright, because if we don't , um, we will, we will be overshadowed and , uh, you know, the fight could be lost or at least temporarily lost. So don't get discouraged, don't get cynical, keep going act .

Speaker 1:

Well, you know, one thing that I've heard so many times since I've been with Penn future, and I think is echoed in your comments is the sense that, you know, even though it can seem so overwhelming to, you know, as an individual to try to fight the fight or, you know, try to stop climate change that , you know, there's only so much you can do. And really only so much impact that one person can have. Yes, you can drive an electric car or recycle, but in the end, what's so most important is having true systematic policy change, you know, within our systems on a wider scale. And , and that that's really what is gonna make the difference in the long term ,

Speaker 2:

Right. And the only way that that's gonna shift, and it is a heavy lift is if people can bring to bear , um , those better ideas that, that, and the kind of leadership that we need for all that to happen.

Speaker 1:

So Jackie, as you , uh , approach your retirement, may I ask you what you have planned for next

Speaker 2:

<laugh> ? Yeah, well , uh , I , I know I , I know what I don't have planned. I'm not retiring to do more . <laugh> not retiring to do more yard work. I know I'm gonna take a , a little bit of a break. Uh , I got a lot of hobbies and , uh, I got a lot of hobbies, especially in the summertime. So , uh , my time will be very full . And then, you know, the , the other thing is that it's just such an important time in my life. I'm lucky enough to have , uh , both of my parents , uh , still, and I believe that they be willing to , uh , accept a little bit more help from me now that I know that I've got now that they know that I have a little bit of extra time to give. And then, you know, what happens beyond that? Uh , I'm, I'm inclined to say that I will continue to be active. I will continue to be an advocate. I will do something, or I will do everything. And that I guess is a cliff hanger on which maybe , uh , we would start to wind out our conversation, Travis .

Speaker 1:

I like it. I like it. That's a , that's a fine cliff hanger to , uh, to wrap this up with Jackie and I can't wait to see what you do and what you don't do , um , as you , uh , continue on. But , uh , please know that for me and everyone on the staff and board, it's been such a pleasure working with you and continuing to work with you, and we are all so honored to be a part of your team and congratulate you on your well deserved retirement.

Speaker 2:

Thanks, Travis. It's been , uh , a challenge. It's been a privilege , uh, and it's, it's been a pleasure all at all at the same time. And I know that I leave the organization in wonderful hands , um, with people like you and the rest of the team , uh , and look for just all the good work that not only will be done . Um , but that must be , uh , for us to , uh , accomplish mission .

Speaker 1:

It's not possible to properly honor, Jackie, without talking with the people who have played key roles in the story of her life Jackie's career has taken her from Pennsylvania to places like the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest Washington, DC, and many places in between before coming to Penn future. Jackie spent nearly a decade at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as that organization's vice president of conservation programs from 1999 to 2008 . Jackie was responsible for budgeting, planning, and administration of the largest natural resource conservation program in the region with staff and eight locations. She also increased the organization's operating budget from 1 million to 5.7 million and grew staff from 11 to over 80 through 2007. During her time at the Conservancy, Jackie worked closely with Charles beer who currently serves as the senior director of conservation science at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. We recently caught up with Charles to chat about his experiences, working with Jackie , and to give him a chance to help honor such a spectacular career. Charles, welcome to environmental voices. It's great to have you on our show today.

Speaker 3:

Uh , thank you for inviting me .

Speaker 1:

You're an important colleague and friend of Jackie's. And as we reflect back on Jackie's career, as she's approaching her retirement, we wanted to have your voice on as well. Charles, can you tell me, do you remember when you first met Jackie or started working together?

Speaker 3:

Um, I first met Jackie when we did start working together for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. She was brought in as one of the vice presidents, the vice president for conservation in the late 1990s . Yeah. Larry Schwager had , uh , hired her.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, of course. We've heard lots about Larry on this podcast as well. Uh , big part of Jackie's career. Tell me more specifically about the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Speaker 3:

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is a non-profit non-governmental organization, you know, in some ways just the foundation in that is similar to Penn future mm-hmm <affirmative> , it is not an advocacy organization. However, it is a land trust. And the main objective is to protect nature, protect biodiversity , uh , watersheds the programs are actually pretty broad because we also get into communities and try to help people better appreciate their communities with urban forestry and some , uh , garden beauti beautification projects and so forth. So,

Speaker 1:

So much , much more hands on ,

Speaker 3:

Much, much more hands on that's right, including that Western Pennsylvania Conservancy was entrusted with an architectural wonder known as falling water mm-hmm <affirmative> the , uh, Kaufman family entrusted that to WPC back in the 1960s. So we also manage and operate that facility

Speaker 1:

That is such an amazing, beautiful house. And of course I've been out there and have done the tour and have walked around the grounds and, and such, and I'm so impressed by it. It it's in a way though, kind of an outlier, right. For the Conservancy. I mean, that's the only building like that, that you're responsible for. I mean, otherwise your work is, is a little bit different than preserving that house.

Speaker 3:

It's mostly about habitats watersheds, forest us and adding some 260,000 acres to , uh, to state parks and federal forests, state forests, and Pennsylvania game lands . We've, we've added that land over time. We, we still do retain , uh , 40 some properties that, that we do maintain as our own nature preserves, but yeah, falling water is , is a little bit outside of that. I , I think that the reason the Kaufman family entrusted falling water to the Conservancy could very well be that in the early 1950s, we were starting to reach out away from Pittsburgh to carry on , um, conservation projects mm-hmm <affirmative> away from the city. And the second one that we ever did was a place called Ferncliff peninsula, which is became part of Ohio Powell , state park, and looking for the funding to accomplish that we approached or , and Lillian Kaufman , uh , to help fund that protection. And I think they were impressed with , uh , the work that we did and so felt comfortable with , uh , at that time, a fairly young organization taking, taking on falling water.

Speaker 1:

And of course, falling water , uh , helps to raise the profile of the Conservancy. I would imagine

Speaker 3:

Certainly does many people know us for falling water? Not for anything else.

Speaker 1:

<laugh> <laugh> tell me a bit about working with Jackie.

Speaker 3:

Well, for me, Jackie was a breath of fresh air. I had already been with the Conservancy for 20 some years, and I was, I came to that organization with a personal conviction and that conviction was matched or exceeded by her. Hmm . In terms of , um , her genuine philosophy and commitment to conservation by have told other people that , uh , you can get a job and you, you just may not find your sweet spot in terms of , uh , what really matters to you. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that there are a few people that, you know, they aren't just working for an organization like ours, but they actually need to, because it's, it's part of their makeup .

Speaker 1:

And that is certainly Jackie ,

Speaker 3:

That certainly is Jackie

Speaker 1:

And you two have stayed , uh , good friends ever since

Speaker 3:

We have. Yeah. She, she sort of watched my children grow up and , uh , we've maintained contact and we talk occasionally, and

Speaker 1:

I know she's roped you into , uh , some Penn future things now. And then,

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I wouldn't say roped in <laugh> , but I, I have been a contributor myself and, and I , uh, I do support the mission of Penn future. And as I was saying that Western Pennsylvania Conservancy meets a lot of my conservation needs, but I always feel also the need to speak out on issues, which is what Ken future does so well. And what , uh, what made it really a match for, for Jackie's work there.

Speaker 1:

So what were your thoughts, Charles, when you heard that Jackie had announced her retirement?

Speaker 3:

Well, my one thought was, Hey, you're younger than I am. Why are you retired? <laugh> but you know, well worth it. She's worked a long time for a variety of efforts. We, we have talked since that she hasn't exactly shared with me , uh , what she'll be doing, but I, I think that we'll all hear from her again.

Speaker 1:

I think that is the , uh , the common theme I'm hearing from a lot of other people as well. That that is what we expect, that we will certainly be hearing more from Jackie. Well, Charles, before we wrap this up and I wanna say, thank you again for your time. Anything else you wanted to say about Jackie or any well wishes you'd like to give her before we wrap this up?

Speaker 3:

Well, I certainly wish her the best. Um, ever since I learned of her story about NSCA pick valley , um , I've looked up to her and , uh , yeah , I really look forward to continuing our friendship.

Speaker 1:

Excellent. We , uh, actually are gonna be chatting with a gentleman from the friends of pec about what they're doing now and Jackie's involvement with them. And that's another segment in this podcast. Thank you Charles, very much for your time and your appreciation of Jackie. And we appreciate what you do at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as well. Well,

Speaker 3:

Thank you. Take care .

Speaker 1:

Another pivotal person in the story of Jackie's career is someone who should be familiar to environmental and conservation advocates in Pennsylvania. She is Cindy Adams Dunn, who has served as the secretary of Pennsylvania's department of conservation and natural resources since 2015, from 2013 to 2015, done served as the president and CEO of Penn future Cindy and Jackie's paths had crossed earlier when they both worked with Autmann chapters. Like Jackie, Cindy is one of the most noteworthy environmental advocates in Pennsylvania over the last several decades. And we are thrilled to have her on the program to speak about Jackie's career secretary Dunn , welcome to environmental voices. It is great to have you on our podcast.

Speaker 4:

Thank you for having me. It's great to be here.

Speaker 1:

Very good. Well, as you know, of course, our, our theme this month is all about Jackie Bonomo and , uh , the work she's done over her career and her upcoming retirement. And I know the two of you have known each other for many years. Your paths have crossed, you've even held the same position at Penn future at different times. Of course, secretary Dunn . Do you remember the first time that you met Jackie

Speaker 4:

I've known Jackie for more than 20 years? Uh , you know, since bef when I was in the Aon society, she was active on environmental issues. So certainly she was a name known to me at that time, but I think the first time I professionally interacted a lot with her was when I was in CNR in the Rendell administration. And Jackie was at Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Mm-hmm <affirmative> as one of the key leaders there and , uh, leading on biodiversity issues and on sustainability and had a lot of interaction with DC NR and helping framing our agenda around by diversity. So I knew were in that capacity , um , our past intertwined around the Autobon world, she, I was the director of Autobon Pennsylvania , uh , not exactly the same time, but , uh , certainly at a time where we could compare notes , she was the director of Aon , Maryland mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so , uh , we shared that, you know, that kind of experience together, Aon , the working of habitat , uh , birds , uh , you know , engagement with climate. So I knew her in that capacity as well. And then , um, as when she headed the , uh , Chesapeake bay funders network, I knew her in the different roles I was in at DC andr . And then when I was at Penn future, the Chesapeake bay funders network was very helpful. I think having Jackie as a Chesapeake bay funder, and also leading that network was a really helpful to Pennsylvania, that nonprofits , of course, I was at Penn futures at the time, but also the other nonprofits benefited from having a Pennsylvania who had that perspective and could really influence a broad array of bay funders and , um, you know , naturally , um, internationally, I was very , uh , delighted when you took the mantle leadership at Penn future.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I was gonna say you , you had been gone for a couple years to join CNR at that point, but that must have been interesting to see her , uh , take that lead at Penn future.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. I mean , she was a natural , uh , fit there. Uh , it really was a great culmination that brought together her skills and knowledge. Uh , you both as a funder, as , you know , as a biodiversity conservation person, you know, as an activist and advocate, I think anyone knows, Jackie knows she's just a natural born advocate, like Penn futures work on clean energy. And of course , um, you know , this last several years of focus on Reggie and her leadership with Penn future on bringing Pennsylvania into the regional greenhouse gas initiative was phenomenal. Um, but again, she's so well grounded in the broad array of environmental and conservation issues, you know , and sitting in CNR . I really appreciate that because conservation environment is , um, is , is a broad topic. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and sometimes a conservation biodiversity side of it gets lost in the more regulatory side. So Jackie has a , you know , broad, broad knowledge and appreciation of the full spectrum.

Speaker 1:

Tell me a bit how DC and R and Penn future have worked together or intersected over the past few years.

Speaker 4:

I know , I know for us , um , Penn future was really helpful and Chesapeake bay work DC and R stepped in to help with forested , riparian buffers, and some of the clarity brought in by , um, Chesapeake bay work through choose clean water. Mm-hmm <affirmative> was very helpful. Um, the work with the general assembly, obviously , uh , very helpful there's educational and advocacy work that really helps the general assembly understand the importance of, of us general work and sustainability and , uh , and also like a , a green future, the sustainability report, looking at the , uh , the full range of elements involved with that, from everything from the workforce and job side to the green clean energy side, to the policy , uh , side to , and , and , and now, especially to the funding side, mm-hmm, <affirmative> that we're, we're standing here very hopefully looking at what could be growing greener three and the advocacy and education around growing greener three and the value it brings to all Pennsylvanians. And so Penn future's voice on that has, has been very helpful as well.

Speaker 1:

That's great to hear cuz I'm, I think that many people may not be aware of how, you know, government departments such as DC and R and nonprofit non-governmental organizations like Penn future actually do work hand in hand on, on many of these issues providing support for each other.

Speaker 4:

I know it's interesting when I , uh , first , uh , assumed a role of secretary and was talking about the, the public mission of DCN R you know, I was telling , uh , legislators and others, you know, it's not so different from the nonprofit work that I'm doing. It's all all about benefiting all Pennsylvanians and understanding the challenges and issues that really mm-hmm <affirmative> are , are Pennsylvanians need. So I , I view , um , nonprofit partners as key key players , oftentimes the , uh , reports and , uh , policy work that they're able to do , uh , can be, can be very useful that those of us in government who have a lot of day to day implementation and management in front of us. And so, so having , um, you know , thoughtful reports and documents that summarize and highlight issues is extremely important to us. And of course , uh , the education and outreach with the general public and the general assembly sister agencies is , is very helpful to us .

Speaker 1:

Excellent. So what did you think when you heard that Jackie had planned to , to retire this summer?

Speaker 4:

Well, <laugh> so Jackie and I are about the same age and we've had very similar career path. So I'm thinking, well, she, she beat me to that. So <laugh> , I dunno how I feel about that. You know, I know , uh , I know Jackie well enough to know that , um , she will not be a stranger to conservation or the environment. Um, and of course , uh, you know, she'll , she'll live behind big choose to fill at Penn future. And , uh, you know, so I, you know, wish Penn future the best on , on that as well. But I , yeah, I think she certainly deserved it . She's worked very hard, her whole career. I'm hoping to affords her a chance to get out and enjoy some of the nature she's helped to protect, you know, car . So carve the way for the rest of us that , uh , get out there someday and enjoy that nature as well.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Before we let you go, secretary Dunn , I want to share a story. Jackie shared with me when I asked her how she got involved with us . And she said that well, and I think of this because you, when you first were describing Jackie, you said that she's an activist. And Jackie shared a story of when she was in high school, that when her high school changed the rules that kept the students from being able to, to go out to lunch, she actually organized a strike of the students, and that was her first role as an activist and kind of got her , uh , going on that path. I thought that was kind of fun.

Speaker 4:

That's great. Yeah. She started young. She did, huh ? Surprised me. Doesn't surprise me at all. I'm only surprised she didn't do something like that in kindergarten. <laugh>

Speaker 1:

Secretary Dunn . Thank you so much for taking the time to join us on environmental voices . We really appreciate your voice and your time.

Speaker 4:

Thank you. And thanks for having me and all the best to Jackie

Speaker 1:

For our last segment, we wanted to end this story where it began for Jackie in Lou Erne county at the age of 26 Jackie's heart broke. When she first learned about Pennsylvania's plans to flood the ESCA P valley in Southern Luer county and condemn those gorgeous bottom land forest wetlands and miles upon miles of Brook trout habitat to watery oblivion. It was that day that Jackie became an activist for our environment. And in response, she was able to build a large coalition of local regional and national sportsmen and wildlife groups together. They stopped the dam at what is today pec state park, which still flows freely and unencumbered into the Susquehanna river. And ultimately the Chesapeake bay, the work marked the very beginning of Jackie's career in environmental advocacy and served as the spark that lit a fire that burns to this day for our last guest, we chatted with Tim Farren , with friends of the pec where Jackie's environmental journey began, Tim, welcome to environmental voices. It's great to have you on our podcast.

Speaker 5:

Thank you. Glad to be here.

Speaker 1:

I've been looking forward to chatting with you of , as I we've mentioned, of course, Jackie, who is , uh , the featured person on the show is a big fan of the friends of the ESCA PE and has been involved with it for many years. Tim, if you would tell me a bit about what the friends of the ESCA is and what your role with it is there?

Speaker 5:

Well, we're a small environmental organization in Northeastern, Pennsylvania, and , uh, we probably never had more than unfortunately six or so active members, sometimes a few on the sidelines. Uh , our concern , um, primarily is , uh , with the , uh , pic , uh , Creek, which forms the center of our watershed mm-hmm <affirmative> . Uh , and that is actually how , uh , we got involved with Jackie because she was very instrumental a number of years ago in stopping efforts to dam the SBEC Creek, make it a recreational area and open for development, thanks to her efforts. And some people that worked with her that project was stopped and the result was the Eck state park. Uh , and it's hard to believe that we would have a watershed , uh , actively , uh , in operation without the ESCA X state park , uh , major partner of ours . So that's really what started our relationship with Jackie, as I said, she was very instrumental and very successful and, and the result is , uh , really a Keystone property here

Speaker 1:

Just to clarify Lou county and then also , uh , Columbian school kill , uh , is where the NECA pet Creek water shed is. But that's, that's the area that you're talking about in, in , uh ,

Speaker 5:

Eastern . Oh , right. We touch on , uh , we're mainly in Luer county, but we also touch on the , uh , other two counties that you mentioned mm-hmm <affirmative> we actually , uh, have a total of , uh , 22 municipalities in our watershed. The watershed , uh , covers an area drains an area of 174 square miles. Uh , and it runs , uh , from the headwaters in , uh , the upper part of our county eventually emptying into the Susquehanna river, just outside of Burwick.

Speaker 1:

And then how long have you been involved Tim with , uh , with the , the friends of the ESCA ?

Speaker 5:

Just about from the beginning in 2002 mm-hmm <affirmative> , um, I gradually , uh, assumed , uh , more duties over time and , uh, currently I'm , uh , acting as the secretary of the organization.

Speaker 1:

Very good. So one thing I really wanted to talk about was the JTO tunnel because I, I was , uh , uh , I guess, fortunate, I'm not quite sure is the right word, but I was on a tour with Jackie a few years back. She took us to the JTO tunnel , uh , which is really out . It's kind of amazing. It's hard to put into words and there's some great pictures of it actually on the friends of the pec , uh , dot org website. But this is where all this, this horrible orange and brown polluted water with all sorts of iron and aluminum and sediment drains out into the little NECA Creek. Am I correct in just how I'm describing that?

Speaker 5:

Pretty much it's composition. The drainage has changed a little bit , uh , over the years it's less acidic, but it's , uh , much more highly impacted by aluminum and to a lesser degree , uh , manganese.

Speaker 1:

Okay. So now this was originally a tunnel that was used of , of what it was a gravity system to drain water from the underground mines and, and pull that out. Right.

Speaker 5:

Well, it's actually a series of seven tunnels. Okay . Most people don't realize it. Um , the tunnels started in , uh , 19 or 1891 and the last one was finished in 1934 . Okay . Uh , gradually there was one large , actually two large tunnels begun , uh, uh , at the end of the drainage. And then gradually they added extensions over the years and , uh, they ranged from 16,000 feet long to only 250 feet long .

Speaker 1:

Wow. The water that goes in there now, I mean, basically it's, it's what surface water enters and then mixes with all the junk down there and comes back up and then pollutes the little Creek .

Speaker 5:

Well, it originally started off as groundwater. Okay . Uh , when, when the coal mines were very active , uh , obviously they wanted to keep the water out as much as possible because initially they were trying to pump it out and that became very expensive. And then when they built the tunnels, they didn't wanna overload the tunnels as well. So they had perimeter drains and other me measures rather to keep this out. Unfortunately, as the coal mines went bust over years , um, those facilities fell into disrepair and now a great portion of , uh , storm water that falls on the Hazleton plateau and surrounding areas gets into the , uh, tunnel system. And also , uh , there are , uh , mine pools that are existing and as they filled up, they overtop to each other and they ultimately end up in the jet tunnel. So, wow . Right now that's the biggest problem. We're talking about 35 to 40,000 gallons, a minute average flow.

Speaker 1:

Wow. That's a lot. And , and , and so that then goes into the little quake Creek and then eventually NACO Creek and then, you know ,

Speaker 5:

Susquehanna

Speaker 1:

And the Susquehanna . So, I mean, this is, you know, huge source of, of pollution, this acid, mine drainage. What, what can be done about, or what, what do the friends of the ESCA pick try to do about it?

Speaker 5:

Well, there have been several things that have been tried. Uh , uh , there was an attempt a while back to , uh , uh , rebuild the , uh , perimeter drains and other things that kept the water out. We've identified at least , uh , 23 , uh , major infiltration points , uh, that turned out to be problematic because over the years, the ownership of the land was cloudy and , uh, there were technical issues involved. And then , uh , there were various treatment strategies that were proposed. Uh , one of the problems there is, there was not a lot of land , uh , at the end of the tunnel, which would be required for most of those. And also money was a major concern because it would be very costly.

Speaker 1:

Sure. Well, it's, I , I mean, certainly important work to try to do something about that. Like I said, when I visited it myself, I was just overwhelmed by, I mean, seeing all that, that orange, bright orange water pouring into the Creek , uh , was, was really disturbing. Tim, tell me about some of the other work that the friends of the pec do.

Speaker 5:

Well , we have a very extensive , uh , testing program. Mm-hmm , <affirmative> , uh , we have a team of people that goes out every month. We test five sites within our watershed at areas , uh , where we can pick up the additional , uh , pollution and , uh , have some sort of a measurement. We , uh , make this information available to our partners. We also put together a , uh , municipal report each year, which we , uh , deliver to the, each municipality within the watershed so that , uh , they know what kind of water is , uh , flowing through their municipality. Uh , we offer to do outreach to any of the municipalities , uh , to explain the results , uh , to talk about possible mitigation. Uh , we keep a library of relevant publications and provide them with information , uh, about the water. If , uh , something comes up, for example, one municipality just had a , uh , bridge rebuilt, and that's where we used to do our testing. And so we were able to supply their contractor with very detailed testing results of what kind of water was in that stream. And we use, we also reach out generally to the public. We attend festivals , uh , as I said earlier, mm-hmm <affirmative> we work , uh , with the ESCO X state park , uh , in programs. Um , I was just at breakfast on Sunday when a woman approached me who had been on our senior tour, we got a bus, we got a bunch of seniors and we took them through the watershed. And that was about three years ago . And she remembered everything that we talked about , uh , and thanked us again for letting her know what was in that water, because people drive over it on the bridges. They look at it, but if we don't know what's in it,

Speaker 1:

Parts of the pec , the water quality's excellent. Right. I mean, it really is kind of , yes , almost two different , uh , streams in some ways.

Speaker 5:

Well, there's actually a point at which the little pic enters , uh , the , uh , main stem pic mm-hmm <affirmative>. And if you stand there, you can actually see two streams. You can see the clean pic , uh , and the polluted little pec . And until they mix , they form two streams and you can physically see the difference. It's, it's quite amazing, quite striking

Speaker 1:

And, and the pec before it, it, it meets that little pec , uh , I mean, it's a beautiful trout stream and beautiful water.

Speaker 5:

Yes. Cold water fishery.

Speaker 1:

What do you see as , as the greatest challenges for the work that the friends, the pec are doing right now?

Speaker 5:

Uh , probably to , uh, energize , uh , the general public , uh , it , it's not really perceived by the average person as, as an issue. Uh, that's , uh , serious to them. Mm-hmm , <affirmative> might be because they're sensitized looking at this Creek, you know, the pollution so many years, and there's also a level of acceptance that that's part of the side area, the heritage that we have. So I would say once we could , uh , increase the sensitivity to the problem would be , uh , very helpful. The money that is now available, the infrastructure money is certainly , uh , very , uh , promising because we might be able to actually fund , uh , some sort of treatment , uh , regimen after all these years. And cuz that's always been a , a deadline you can talk about. And then when you get down to dollars and cents, you're talking about serious money and , uh , it wasn't really available.

Speaker 1:

What can people do to , to learn more and possibly get involved with the friends of an ESCAP ?

Speaker 5:

Well, I think they should , uh , they could take a look at the potential that's lost by this water being polluted mm-hmm <affirmative> uh , we try to show in , uh , we had a publication that we developed a number of years ago where we, we talked about the , the two streams, you know, what, what could our streams look like? And we , we had a , we emphasized , uh , the pec Creek and state park, very pristine. And then we showed the Nescafe Creek after the little pec got hold of it. And , uh, tried to , uh , make the case for, you know, the polluted areas , uh , a potential asset that you're, you're, you're missing recreational , uh , mental health , uh , and take a look at where it isn't impacted. That's what you could have if you were able to resolve these issues.

Speaker 1:

Exactly. I certainly encourage people to, to take a look@thefriendsofthepec.org website, cuz you've got a lot of good pictures and information on there for people to , to take a look at it . And of course, if they're, if they live in that area or if they're traveling through that area to visit the , um , park. Right,

Speaker 5:

Right. And , uh , we're very thankful that we've had Jackie all these years to , uh, give us a window to the outside world. As she moved , uh , through different organizations, she never forgot , uh , the VE Creek and this watershed. And she was always available to assist us in any way that she could. And uh, we have a very small watershed group. You rely on someone who is in the outside world to keep you abreast on , uh , happenings in the capital and elsewhere.

Speaker 1:

Well , I'm sure Jackie will continue to be involved with you in the PAC , even in her retirement. Uh ,

Speaker 5:

I think you're safe in making that prediction.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely . Tim, I want , thank you so much for being on environmental voices today. We really appreciate your time and the work that you do

Speaker 5:

Well , I appreciate the ,

Speaker 1:

And that does it for this episode of environmental voices, the Penn future podcast. Thank you to Charles beer , Tim Farrin , secretary Dunn . And of course to our leader, Jackie Bonomo for being our guests . If you'd like to learn more about the work each of them do, you can check out our show summary@pennfuture.org slash podcast. And of course, make sure to subscribe and leave behind a review of environmental voices, the Penn future podcasts, wherever you get your podcasts. And as always, please let us know what you'd like to hear on future episodes. Environmental voices is sponsored by Penn future Pennsylvania's watchdog for clean air, clean water and clean energy. You can find out more and become a member@pennfuture.org . And if you're interested in becoming a sponsor, please let us know. Today's show was written by Jared stone cer and Travis de Nicole . It was produced by Donna Ko hut , Michael Miza , Suzanne Whitehead and Jared stone cer with additional marketing help from Annie Reagan . The executive producer is Matt step . Our music is thanks to PAB bay.com . I'm your host and audio engineer, Travis de Nicola . Thank you for listening to environmental voices, the Penn future podcast.