A panel of experts will discuss land preservation at a community forum from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the social hall of the Penn Township Volunteer Fire Department, 1750 Pine Road, Newville.

The event, “Preserving Cumberland County’s Rural Landscape and Natural Resources,” is free and open to the public. It will be hosted by the Cumberland Conservation Collaborative.

There will be free refreshments and an opportunity to talk with representatives of 16 CCC organizations during a reception beginning at 5:30 p.m. The panel discussion, led by moderator George Pomeroy, Shippensburg University professor, will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Panelists are Troy Truax, engineer at Michael Baker International and chairman of the South Middleton Planning Commission; Bill Chain, Central Pennsylvania Conservancy board member and senior agriculture program manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Andy Williford, vice president of human resources for Volvo Construction Equipment Operations Americas; and Jonathan Pinkerton, vice president of Susquehanna Heritage.

“There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania, and Cumberland County is the fastest growing county,” said CCC President Rick Rovegno. “We have the highest rate of population growth and associated development of any county.”

While growth is beneficial for the economy, Rovegno said it also presents challenges for conservationists.

“We’re blessed,” he said. “Growth brings economic opportunities and prosperity, but it also leads to challenges — how do we balance a very robust rate of growth and development with preservation of the environment, and afford outdoor recreational opportunities for future generations? … The key word is balance.”

Information key

According to Rovegno, the CCC was organized as a way to bring together many organizations that share a common goal, and Thursday’s forum will provide an avenue for people to gather information and share ideas for preserving their environment as development continues.

“We want to bring together perspectives that will help us in ensuring we have that balance as we move together into the future,” he said.

Rovegno said that during his years as a Cumberland County commissioner, he saw the need for a central organization.

“I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of individuals and organizations that were working to promote outdoor recreation and preserve the environment for future generations,” he said. “I came to realize that there was no central platform that brought them all together and allowed them to collaborate and share knowledge. That was the basis of the formation of the Cumberland County Collaborative, and one of its primary missions is education.”

Rovegno said he hopes the forum will achieve two things — to promote continued discussion about ways to preserve the environment, and to provide opportunities for residents to become volunteers.

For more information about the Cumberland Conservation Collaborative and its mission, visit www.cumberlandconservationcollaborative.org.