Conservation department says no state forest lands are left for gas leasing
BY LAURA LEGERE (STAFF WRITER) – THE TIMES-TRIBUNE
Reposted- Published: August 13, 2010
There are no unleased acres left in Pennsylvania’s state forests where Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling sites, pipelines and access roads could be built without damaging environmentally sensitive areas, according to a new analysis by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Nearly 139,000 acres of state forest have been leased for gas drilling since 2008 and money from those lucrative leases – a total of $354 million – has been used to help balance the last two state budgets. But DCNR Secretary John Quigley said the era of leasing large parcels of state forests for gas drilling is over. “We may do some little stuff here and there,” he said, “but in terms of large-scale leasing, we’re done.”
The department’s findings, demonstrated in a series of overlain maps on DCNR’s website, show the forests in northcentral Pennsylvania above the gas-rich Marcellus Shale crowded by leased land, parcels where the state does not own the mineral rights and places where development must be restricted.
Of the 1.5 million acres of state forest underlain by the shale, 700,000 acres have already been leased or the mineral rights under them are controlled by an owner other than the state. An additional 702,500 acres are in ecologically sensitive areas – places with protected species, forested buffers, old growth or steep slopes. Another 27,500 acres are designated as primitive and remote lands, 49,600 acres were identified through a forest conservation analysis as priority conservation lands, and the last 20,400 acres are so entwined with the other sensitive areas that they cannot be developed without damaging them. Read more.