From left to right: Tom Saunders, President/CEO of Western PA Conservancy and PALTA Director; Andy Loza, PALTA Executive Director; John Oliver; Renee’ Carey, Executive Director of Northcentral PA Conservancy and PALTA Vice-President; Jeff Marshall, President of Heritage Conservancy and PALTA President

The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association (PALTA) awarded John C. Oliver III with the Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award at an awards dinner in State College on May 20th.

John, an avid outdoorsman and lover of the natural world, was honored for his dedication and exemplary achievements in protecting Pennsylvania’s land and water. His career of over 30 years and his additional volunteer commitments have resulted in a profound legacy of conservation work.

John served as a long-time staff member of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, as well as its President. He was later appointed by Governor Tom Ridge as the first Secretary of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Through John’s leadership as President of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and as Secretary of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, over 206,000 acres of land were conserved for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians for all time. These lands represented additions to Pennsylvania’s state parks, forests and game lands, as well as additions to Allegheny National Forest.

During John’s presidency of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, over 126,000 acres of land were permanently protected. A few of his major accomplishments include the designation of the first federal wilderness area in Pennsylvania–the 9,400-acre Hickory Creek Wilderness Area in the Allegheny National Forest–and the addition of over 12,000 acres to state game lands.

Throughout his eight years at the helm of DCNR, 80,000 acres of land were protected and added to state parks and forests. As DCNR Secretary, John led the way for Pennsylvania to become a national leader of sustainable forestry practices through certification of the state’s forests, enabled the trail and greenway systems in Pennsylvania to flourish into one of the largest rail-trail systems in the country, and made major improvements to community park systems.

John advanced the creation of Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener Program, which remains the largest single investment in environmental funding in the state. Through this and other grant programs, DCNR’s funding under John’s leadership helped communities and conservation organizations achieve numerous successes in open space protection, river conservation, revitalization of community parks and playgrounds, and the creation of trails and greenways across the state.

John currently serves as Mayor of the Borough of Sewickley Heights (Allegheny) and continues to serve the missions of various conservation organizations.

“John’s warmth, grace and helpfulness introduced me to, and kept me in the work of land conservation. For that, I can’t thank him enough,” said Andy Loza, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. “This award, given to only 12 others, is intended to honor extraordinary people, like John, whose conservation work and achievements have resulted in a profound and everlasting impact for today’s and future generations.”

The award was presented in conjunction with the 2016 Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference held in State College, PA.