State budget address doesn't call for leasing state forests; Senate vote on Marcellus bill raises concern
"We're pleased that the governor listened to Pennsylvania sportsmen and women and did not sacrifice Pennsylvania's forests by turning them into a revenue item in the state budget," said Ken Undercoffer, president of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited. "We hope this indicates that Gov. Corbett is committed to protecting these resources for generations to come. We ask him to go one step further and provide permanent protection for these remaining forest lands."
Over 40 sportsmen groups and conservation organizations, representing more than 100,000 sportsmen and women in Pennsylvania, sent a letter to Gov. Corbett in January, asking that he not lease additional state forest lands for oil and gas development to preserve sporting opportunities on these lands. One-third of state forest lands have already been leased.
The letter was signed by such groups as the National Wildlife Federation, the Pennsylvania Forest Coalition, Quality Deer Management Association and local and state chapters of national Trout Unlimited.
The Pennsylvania Senate also voted today to pass HB 1950, a bill that includes a Marcellus Shale impact fee and new drilling regulations.
"While HB 1950 contains some improvements to drilling regulations, we continue to have serious concerns about how fish and wildlife will fare near drilling sites," Undercoffer said. "The bill increases the distance from a well bore to a stream to 300feet, but given that the size of an average well pad is three acres in size, that's not nearly enough to ensure protection of these resources."
HB 1950 also includes a provision that gives the commonwealth exclusive jurisdiction over all aspects and processes related to drilling on the Allegheny National Forest, including surface impacts and water withdrawals. Last December, sportsmen and women from 36 sportsmen conservation organizations expressed opposition to such restrictions, out of concern that the bill would prevent the U.S. Forest Service from properly managing the forest—and the fish and wildlife that rely upon sound forest management.
Erin Mooney Trout Unlimited, (571) 331-7970, email@example.com
Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization with more than 147,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook on Twitter via @TroutUnlimited.