According to Governor Corbett’s proposed budget, the answer is "yes"—the deep shale beneath Pennsylvania’s public lands is up for grabs. Despite the fact that nearly half of Pennsylvania’s state forest lands—approximately 700,000 of the 1.5 million acres that overly the Marcellus Shale—has already been leased, Governor Corbett is proposing to fill budget gaps by issuing “non-surface” leases for the remaining state forest lands and the state parks, which are currently untouched by shale gas well pads.
While a “non-surface” lease might mean that well pads are not allowed on state forest and park lands, it is unclear whether additional infrastructure –such as storage areas, new roads, water withdrawal structures and pipelines—will be allowed to bisect the forested landscape. An average well pad is approximately 3-4 acres, but the additional acreage needed for drilling-related infrastructure can bring the total surface disturbance to 12 acres. Read more about the “Scale of Shale” in Chad Shmukler’s blog on hatchmag.com.
For generations, hunters and anglers have hunted, fished, trapped and enjoyed other outdoor recreational opportunities on state forest and park lands. In Pennsylvania, most of the wilderness trout watersheds, naturally reproducing trout streams and Class A Wild Trout waters are located on state forest and park lands—providing abundant fishing opportunities for anglers seeking a remote and challenging experience. These long-held traditions are now forced to compete with industrial scale shale gas drilling.
Gambling with Pennsylvania’s public lands is not a new tactic in state budget negotiations.
During the 2012-2013 budget process, Governor Corbett threatened to open up state forest and state park lands to further drilling, despite the existing executive order that placed a moratorium on additional leasing of state forest lands. At the time, TU mobilized 42 hunting and angling groups, to tell Governor Corbett not to treat Pennsylvania’s public lands like a cash cow. We had an effect. Governor Corbett responded that he would not, at the time, lease any additional state forest or park lands.
You can bet sportsmen and women will rally again, united together to protect public lands in Pennsylvania.