Baby Drill in Pennsylvania State Forests…
Steve Mohr, Chairman of the Board
Dr. Dennis Wydra, Marcellus Team Leader
Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania
The Eastern Sports
& Outdoors Show in Harrisburg earns its reputation each
year as one of the best expositions of its kind in the nation,
and has more recently served as a hub for dialogue about natural
gas drilling on public lands in Pennsylvania. Some of the
opinions expressed are informed, while others are emotional
or simply incorrect.
The Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania (USP) believe there
is great potential for natural gas development in the Commonwealth,
and supports these discussions, but also believe strongly
that they must be grounded on facts – as offered below.
Drilling is not new on state forest land. The Pennsylvania
state forests have lots of gas and oil wells drilled, with
most of the existing wells being the old shallow wells and
not the new, deeper horizontal wells. The Department of Conservation
and Natural Resources is charged with supervising drilling
on our 2.4 million acres of state forest land and receives
all signing bonuses and royalty payments, unless special legislation
Fact #1 – DCNR does not own the state forest land. It is owned
by the Department of General Services, and that means it belongs
to all taxpayers in all 67 counties. USP believes now is the
time to “Drill Baby Drill” on all of our state forests, and
not just segments as DCNR did in its 2008 and 2009 state forest
Fact #2 – DCNR said in 2008, “Approximately 74,000 acres of
state forest lands are included in the September 2008 Oil
and Gas Lease Sale. ”And then they proceeded to remove large
blocks of land from this gas sale by using environmental tricks
to discourage drilling.
|Most of the 18 approved gas and oil exploration
and production companies refused to bid on this lease
because DCNR staff put large blocks of valuable land
off limits from drilling. Their restricted zones in
this 74,000-acre lease included wild and natural management
zones, non-development steep slopes, viewsheds, high-value
timber areas, non-development recreation zones, and
ecological zones. This had the effect of shrinking the
original 74,000 acres to between 11,200-16,000 acres.
Drillers were also restricted from using heavy trucks
between November 1 and March 30 (five months), a restriction
not placed on DCNR’s logging trucks. DCNR’s cumulative
restrictions were so burdensome that 16-17 approved
natural gas producers refused to bid on 15 of the 18
tracts. DCNR’s mismanagement is also reflected in the
fact that it settled for a 16 percent royalty in the
bid package, while other state agencies were getting
royalties between 25-30%.
Fact #3 – The value of this land was further highlighted last
summer by Department of Community and Economic Development
Secretary C. Alan Walker, who said new drilling on state forest
land could bring in $60 billion over the next 30 years to
"solve just about every economic problem we have. "It
sure looks like the 700,000 acres of state forest land containing
gas and oil are worth more than the trees on top of the gas.
Fact #4 – The 2.4 million acres of state forest land belongs
to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. That 2.4 million acres were
removed from the tax rolls of rural counties, townships, and
school districts, and DCNR is paying each of them only $.40
per acre each year in lieu of taxes. This property should
be viewed as the “Peoples’ 401K,” and it’s time they see a
return on their investment. USP believes every taxpayer in
Pennsylvania should receive a gas and oil royalty check each
year from the monies earned from drilling on our state forest
Fact #5 – DCNR has decimated the deer herd in this same area
where the gas is and they now call it the Pennsylvania Wilds.
When the environmentalists destroyed the deer herd, they killed
off a significant economic engine in rural Pennsylvania. Hunting
in Pennsylvania was a $5 billion dollar industry, and it has
now been replaced by an Elk Zoo for day visitors.
|USP, the Allegheny County Sportsman League, and The
Eastern Pennsylvania Firearms Coalition are three groups
working together to restore the deer herd to a sustainable
hunting level in the Pennsylvania Wilds counties now
designated by DCNR as their prize Elk watching area.
We want our deer herd back; the deer did not destroy
the forests, it was acid rain and insect infestation
that are to blame. The deer camps were worth $5-6 billion
annually to the north-central region’s economy between
1950-2000, and the deer herd and the forests got along
rather well. Suddenly, at the turn of the millennium,
the environmentalists, led by DCNR, decided the deer
herd must be eradicated. Exceedingly high doe permits
in this area have taken a heavy toll on the herd.
Fact #6 – DCNR does not have enough family cabins to rent
during hunting and fishing seasons. It’s time to create
new hunting, fishing, and energy parks where sportsmen and
their families can have thousands of new cabins to rent
for fishing and hunting seasons and family vacations, funded
through oil and natural gas development on those lands.
We believe gas drilling, hunting, fishing and family vacations
can co-exist with our God- given resource of shale gas.
God put that gas there for a rainy day and now that rainy
day is here.
Through its partnership with the Pennsylvania Independent
Oil & Gas Association, USP has gained an invaluable
appreciation of the potential this industry has for our
future, and its commitment to safety, and the USP believes
that the industry is a good friend of our state forests.
USP says, “Drill, Baby Drill!”
Mr. Steve Mohr
is a former Pennsylvania Game Commissioner, past President
of the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania and currently serves
as the USP Chairman of the Board. He has been a township supervisor
in Conoy Township, Lancaster County for over 25 years and
resides with his family on their farm near Bainbridge.
Dr. Dennis Wydra
is a retired Professor of Education and has conducted five
years of research on all facets of Marcellus and Utica shale
development. His research focused on methods and techniques
used by state agencies to encourage or discourage drilling
on state land. He is a conservationist who serves as the Marcellus
Team Leader for USP and resides with his family in Elysburg.
national news story was published by Patriot news,
March 13, 2012.