Pennsylvania’s forests of white pine, hemlocks, oaks, beech, elm and chestnuts once provided an abundant and seemingly endless supply of resources: timber for houses and fences, fuel for iron furnaces and household heating, masts for ships, and props for mines. From 1880 to 1980, as America evolved into a super power, Pennsylvania played several vital roles: Its timber and coal provided materials and fuel, its steel built the nation, and its railroads carried people and materials everywhere.
But there was a cost. By the 1980s, our rivers were running orange and yellow with discharges from coal mines and waste piles, our once mighty network of railroads was largely abandoned, and Penn’s woods had been altered.
In the 1980s, residents within the Kiski-Conemaugh River Basin began to do something about the condition of their resources. They launched programs and projects to clean up their polluted waterways and started to secure abandoned railroad rights-of-way for trail development. Then their efforts revealed another issue the proliferation of invasive non-native plants like Japanese knotweed.
Natural Biodiversity sprouted from an action item (Section VII, Article D, Item 3) in the Kiski-Conemaugh River Basin Conservation Plan, published in 1999 by the Kiski-Conemaugh River Basin Alliance and funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation
and Natural Resources. That action item called for “further information on and subsequent control of invasive knotweed species in riparian areas.”
In the spring of 2000, the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy and The Western Pennsylvania
Watershed Program partnered on a Japanese knotweed control project along the West Penn Trail in Saltsburg, PA. This project gave birth to Natural Biodiversity and was the prototype for on-the-ground projects that remain the central focus of the program today.