To help businesses effectively promote tourism in Pennsylvania's 12 northern counties, state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Community and Economic Development officials met this evening with the Warren County Northern Alleghenies Vacation Region.

Called “Pennsylvania Wilds,” the region covers 2 million acres and offers more than 1,000 miles of bike trails and untold fishing holes.

DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis said the meeting with Warren County Northern Alleghenies Vacation Region and interested stakeholders was held to strengthen the state's partnership with local officials.

“Governor Rendell has made promoting the Pennsylvania Wilds a tourism priority,” DiBerardinis said. “There are great opportunities to diversify and expand travel and recreation opportunities here. Working together, we can successfully do this in a way that respects and protects natural resources and local communities.”

Besides biking and fishing, Pennsylvania Wilds offers 27 state parks and 1.5 million acres of state forest and game lands.

“We believe the Pennsylvania Wilds effort will help us continue to revitalize our community and build on our traditional tourist destinations,” said Diane Shawley, executive director of the Warren County Northern Alleghenies Vacation Region.

For Pennsylvanians and people who live in surrounding states, the Wilds region is just a day's drive for some 50 million people.

“Tourists are looking for authentic experiences,” DCED Deputy Secretary for Tourism Mickey Rowley said. “We are excited to work with our tourism partners to help brand Pennsylvania Wilds in a way that sustains and enhances the region's character. It's an economic development tool that will help communities diversify their economies and take full advantage of the area's rich, diverse and, in many cases, undiscovered assets,” Rowley added.

Tourism promotion agency board members, county commissioners, legislators, county planning offices, members of the local chamber of commerce and business representatives participated in the meeting at the Holiday Inn in Warren.

Efforts now are underway to assess the Pennsylvania Wilds' outdoor recreation resources, highlight the region's lumber industry heritage, provide opportunities for private concessions to support tourism, improve public facilities and support staffing and stimulate the sale of the state's wood products.

The Wilds covers Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga and Warren counties and includes Allegheny National Forest, Pine Creek Gorge, the largest elk herd in the northeast U.S. and the darkest nighttime skies at Cherry Springs State Park.