Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the nation in which we have a constitutional right to “pure water,” along with clean air and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.
One of the leaders at the center of the Environmental Rights Amendment to the state constitution – passed 50 years ago this May – was Franklin Kury, a Sunbury native who rode a clean streams platform to the first of three terms in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1966.
As for the evolution of threats to our waterways, Kury relayed that he’s noticed a change of source.
“Back then, much of what we dealt with were point discharge. In other words, if you were running a factory in Sunbury or Milton, and you wanted to pour stuff into the river, you did it through a pipe – that is a point discharge,” he said. “Now, we have more fertilizers and other things spread out over acres.”
Kury's career and efforts to protect the environment was notable to many over the years, including John L. Moore, a retired newspaperman and historian, of Northumberland.
“Franklin L. Kury was perhaps the most effective Harrisburg lawmaker I covered during my three-year stint as a legislative correspondent for Ottaway Newspapers in 1973-1975,” he said.
"He was an idealistic environmentalist who had an excellent sense of timing. Kury knew that during the 1970s many environmental issues had broad public support. He also realized that powerful special interest groups opposed legislative bills that called for regulating industrial practices that caused different types of pollution. Kury worked diligently to propose tough legislation, making reasonable compromises when necessary, but marshalling public support to pressure lawmakers reluctant to support his bill.”
Kury’s passion for the outdoors began early, growing up along the river near Sunbury, and via Boy Scouts.
“I was a nature instructor at the Boy Scout camp in Union County,” he said. “I was the only guy in the whole troop who thought Bird Study was an easy merit badge.”
He eventually pursued a career in law, opening a practice in Sunbury.
“Basse Beck came to see me looking for legal help on a pro bono basis looking over his Clean Streams bill. I was just a new lawyer in town and wanted to get clients. Beck was a possibility,” he said. “I’d say it turned out pretty well.”
For more information about Kury and his new book, visit www.FranklinKury.com
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John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.