Arthur A. Davis
Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Arthur A. Davis, an awardee in the state government category, has been active in natural resources protection for more than 30 years. Davis has served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DER) since his appointment in 1987. Previously, he held the Maurice K. Goddard Chair of Forestry and Environmental Resources at the University of Pennsylvania. His numerous years in public service and nonprofit administration include positions with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in Pittsburgh; the Conservation Foundation in Washington, DC; the federal Open Space Land Program at Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, which set the nation’s recreation agenda for a generation and led to passage of such federal legislation as the Land and Water Conservation Fund. As DER secretary, Davis has made wetlands protection a high priority. In 1988, he released a wetlands action plan that outlined administrative and regulatory changes to improve the DER’s wetlands protection programs to help prevent destruction or degradation of wetlands where practicable alternatives exist. Where practicable alternatives do not exist, the plan seeks to minimize any adverse impacts. And when impacts are unavoidable, the DER’s goal is to assure the enhancement, restoration, or creation of new wetland acreage. The plan also offers additional consideration to wetlands of exceptional value for protection. Davis has stressed the importance of the role of education in protecting wetlands. Following his release of the wetlands action plan, a training program was developed for the Department’s permitting and management staff on wetlands identification and regulation to increase awareness of wetlands and to ensure consistency. The DER also developed educational materials both for the general public and for the regulated community to help them comply with wetlands regulations. The DER has also worked with the Department of Community Affairs to provide wetlands training for local governments. Davis hopes that with this training, wetlands protection will be raised early in the development process.Davis has also initiated a practice of reviewing key permitting programs, especially in the Bureaus of Mining, Waste Management, Oil and Gas Management, Soil and Water Conservation, and Water Quality Management, to develop early wetlands identification. A preliminary wetland screening was incorporated into permit meetings.In December 1989, Davis presented the state Environmental Quality Board with proposed regulations that will assist the DER in assessing and evaluating the effects of activities on wetlands by establishing concise standards for permit review. Permit decisions will provide protection for all wetlands, especially those of exceptional value. The proposed regulations would establish a new category of exceptional value wetlands, including wetlands that provide habitat for important, threatened, or endangered species, or protect water quality. The DER is currently reviewing comments and finalizing the regulations.Davis has increased the DER’s field presence to detect illegal activities and provide technical assistance and increased the staff available to review Wetlands permits. In January 1989, he established the Divisions of Rivers and Wetlands to carry out the provisions of the wetlands action plan, provide environmental review of all activities requiring permits that may affect wetlands, and develop and implement a long-term public educational and technical assistance program for citizens and the regulated community.— Barbara Weiss, Regulatory Coordinator, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources