The 2024 Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference (April 3-5, 2024, Bethlehem) features appearances and remarks from a range of local dignitaries, high-ranking commonwealth conservation officials, and an expert keynote speaker.

Wednesday April 3 Opening Night Reception

At the opening night reception, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Steel Stacks on the rooftop deck of Wind Creek, conference attendees will hear from Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn

Cindy Adams Dunn has served as the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources since 2015. She has served multiple positions in the agency under three governors during the last three decades. Ms. Dunn first joined DCNR in the mid-1990s as Director of Community Relations and Environmental Education. Past DCNR roles included serving as Deputy Secretary of Conservation and Technical Services from 2007-2013, where she led the Conservation Landscape program and oversaw the grant program, which provides $30-$60 million annually for conservation and recreation throughout the commonwealth. Other leadership posts include Director of the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation and Director of the Office of Education, Communications, and Partnerships. 

During her tenure, Ms. Dunn has helped position Pennsylvania as a leader in land conservation, outdoor recreation, green practices, and public land management. Under her leadership, the department: 

  • Created the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps to connect youth and young adults with job opportunities relating to the outdoors and the environment;
  • Advanced water quality initiatives within the Chesapeake Bay and across the commonwealth through investments in conservation, buffer plantings, and restoration;
  • Advanced mitigation and adaptation best practices related to climate change;
  • Managed the highest visitation at state parks and forests; and,
  • Received historical levels of funding to address the growing conservation and recreation needs of the commonwealth. 

Ms. Dunn’s non-profit conservation and advocacy roles include serving as the president and chief executive officer of PennFuture, state director of Audubon Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania coordinator for Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and as an environmental educator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Ms. Dunn holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biology from Shippensburg University. She and her husband, Craig, reside in Cumberland County. 

When not championing the efforts of DCNR, Ms. Dunn enjoys the natural and recreation resources DCNR works hard to protect and promote through hobbies that include birding, canoeing, fishing, and hiking. 

Thursday April 4 Plenary and Keynote

At the Thursday morning breakfast, conference attendees will hear welcoming remarks from Northampton County Executive, Lamont G. McClure, and Lehigh County Executive, Phillips Armstrong. Pennsylvania State Forester, Seth Cassell will then offer remarks prior to the keynote address (Budburst, Bird Migrations, Bloom Times and Bug Hatches: Their Times They Are a Changin’) from Dr. Diane Husic.

Northampton County Executive Lamont G. McClure

Northampton County Executive Lamont G. McClure

After Lamont G. McClure was sworn in as County Executive of Northampton County in January 2018, he moved rapidly to make his vision of a greener, healthier, and more economically successful County a reality. Executive McClure sees the future of Northampton County as ‘green’, ensuring that parks, trails, and open space will still be in place for our children and grandchildren to hunt, fish, and hike. During his time in office, Executive McClure promised to fight against warehouse proliferation, and he’s achieving that by preserving over 622 acres of open space and environmentally sensitive land between 2018 and 2023 and investing $25 million in the preservation of farmland. Since 2018, Northampton County Farmland Preservation has preserved 3,812 acres on 73 farms, with another 1,000 potential acres added to the program in 2024, ensuring future generations benefit from our agricultural heritage. 

Gracedale Nursing Home remains in the hands of the County, thanks to Executive McClure. Gracedale, the largest public nursing home under one roof in Pennsylvania and which also took the hardest hit from the pandemic, will continue to be County-owned and County-operated. Additionally, more caseworker positions have been added in the Human Services department to protect our most vulnerable residents better.  

In 2020, Executive McClure oversaw the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which included establishing drive-through testing sites and allocating PPE to municipalities. With the help of County Council, he distributed over $25 million in grants to 766 small businesses administered through the CARES Act and 1,146 small businesses grants administered through the ARP Act.  

Executive McClure accomplished all of this without raising taxes in the five budgets he presented. In 2022, County Council passed his plan to cut property taxes by one mil. 

Executive McClure is a lifelong Pennsylvania resident. He attended Wilkes University, majoring in History and International Studies, and in 1995, he earned his Juris Doctorate from The Law School of Duquesne. He began practicing law soon afterward, specializing in worker’s compensation and asbestos cases. Despite his busy career, he managed to find time to serve his fellow citizens in government. Executive McClure sat on Northampton County’s Council from 2006 to 2013, where he was best known as a tireless advocate for protecting open space and fighting to keep Gracedale under county control. Mindful of the County’s taxpayers, he authored a law to distribute revenue from casinos to impacted townships, and he led the fight to help homeowners facing foreclosure. 

Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong

Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong

Phillips Armstrong was influenced greatly by his blue-collar union family which instilled in him the importance of a hard work ethic and a dedication to making a difference in the community. These life lessons motivated Phil to choose a path improving the lives of others. 

Phil found his first passion for public service in education.  He graduated from Kutztown in 1971 with B.S in Secondary Education and a minor in social studies and obtained his Master’s in Education in 1975. He finally settled in Whitehall Township where he taught social studies for over 40 years. Phil brought creativity and innovation to the classroom, ensuring his students were always provided with real-world experiences, cutting-edge lessons and learned critical skills. His students continue to express their gratitude to him to this day. Armstrong also served as the girls’ basketball coach where he fought to ensure the school provided equal access to equipment and training facility. He is in the Lehigh Valley Sports Hall of Fame and the Whitehall High School Hall of Fame. Armstrong’s quality in the classroom translated into praise and respect from his peers.  His time in the Whitehall School District saw him rise to be head of the Social Studies Department.  He was also selected to serve as the Secondary Education Chairperson for the Middle States Council on Social Studies, where he worked to develop a state standardized exam for Social Studies. 

Phil’s retirement from education led him into his next venture into public service when he was appointed to the Whitehall Board of Commissioners. He moved quickly to bring civility and common sense to the board and was selected by his peers to be board president. His leadership produced a reduction in the garbage tax, and held the line in all other forms of taxation in Whitehall.  The township has capital replacement plan for its emergency services, a fully funded police pension system and is in the process of paying off all of its debt.   

Armstrong remains an active member of his community.  He serves on the Board of Directors for the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Whitehall Lion’s Club. Currently, he serves on both the Counsel of Trustees for Kutztown University and the Board of Trustees for Penn State, Lehigh Valley Campus. In February, 2021, Phil was elected to the National Association of Regional Councils Board of Directors. He represents all the councils of governments, development agencies, regional and metropolitan organizations in the state of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware. This is the first time a Lehigh Valley elected official represented four states and over 27 million people living in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Phil serves on the Executive Board of the County Executives of America, the National Association of Counties Organization and is in his second term representing District 2 on the National Association of Regional Councils. He was also selected to meet twice a year with 21 other County Executives to share county ideas. 

Phil continues to reside in Whitehall Township, with his wife, Annette.  He has six grandchildren, Jake, Elizabeth, Ava, Olivia, Savanna, and Ryder.  His children take after him in both hard work and desire to make a difference. His daughter, Katie, is a Penn State graduate and has an MBA from St. Joes and is working on her doctorate degree. His daughter, Jessica, graduated from Bloomsburg University, and together with her husband founded the successful company, Mathway. His son Phillips Jr. attended Temple and Colorado State.  He now owns six restaurants in Colorado (is looking to expand to Hawaii as well), and is a competitive skier, ranked second in the master’s division internationally.

Pennsylvania State Forester Seth Cassell

Pennsylvania State Forester Seth Cassell

Seth Cassell is State Forester/Director of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry.  In his role, he is responsible for overseeing management of the $2.2 million-acre, third-party certified State Forest system and conserving and protecting the health of the Commonwealth’s forests and native wild plants.   Cassell has served the Bureau of Forestry in various roles since 2000, in forestry, urban forestry, communications, land acquisitions, and resource planning.  Seth has also served in the Air National Guard since 1994 as an aircraft mechanic, pilot and now squadron commander and Lieutenant Colonel.  

He and his fiber-artist wife, Amy, live in northern Dauphin County with their two children and English setters on a 25-acre farm they are restoring to native grasses and trees.  Cassell’s hobbies include grouse hunting, fly-fishing, vegetable gardening, woodworking, and playing American roots music on guitar and banjo.   

Keynote Speaker Dr. Diane Husic

Keynote Speaker Dr. Diane Husic

Dr. Husic has a B.S. and Ph.D. in Biochemistry (from Northern Michigan University and Michigan State University, respectively). Before becoming founding dean of the Center for Scholarship, Research, and Creative Endeavors at Moravian University, she served as dean for the School of Natural and Health Sciences at Moravian College, and before that, as chair of Biological Sciences. She also currently serves as the director for the Environmental programs at Moravian and is a senior fellow with the Global Council for Science and the Environment. She has taught courses on biochemistry, environmental science, conservation biology, sustainability, environmental health, and global climate change. Her research focuses on the ecological restoration of a contaminated site (the Palmerton Superfund site) and she is involved with ecological monitoring for climate change impacts along mountain landscapes in the portion of the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania and in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem/Rocky Mountains. Through her work at the science-policy interface with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), she has brought delegations of students and faculty to the U.N. climate meetings in various countries on 4 continents since 2009 to develop global citizens who will help address our greatest challenges. She is an author on over 50 publications and has contributed to several reports – including a 200-page ecological assessment for a Superfund site and the 2011 PA Climate Change Adaptation report. She serves as a member of the steering committee for the international Research and Independent NGOs constituency group and various taskforces of the UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee.

In 2019, along with 6 colleagues, she established the Camaquiri Conservation Initiative in Costa Rica, a 500-acre rainforest preserve for education and research. For several years, she has brought students to the country for a course entitled Costa Rica as a Model of Tropical Ecology and Sustainability. Locally, she works with nature centers and non-profits to develop informal education programming on a wide range of environmental and sustainability issues and finding unique ways to effectively communicate science to general audiences and engage the public in science and policy. She is president of the board for the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and serves on the board and chair of the conservation science committee for Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.