Drill Baby Drill in Pennsylvania State Forests…

Just the Facts

By 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 approves otherwise.

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 gas leases.

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 land.

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.


This national news story was published by Patriot news,

Tuesday March 13, 2012.





©2011 • Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania