FRACKED: LOYALSOCK STATE FOREST

loyalsock frack pondOver 500 people jammed a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources meeting on Monday June 3, 2013, to voice their opposition to natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest.

The Loyalsock State Forest covers approximately 100,000 acres across Bradford, Lycoming and Sullivan Counties.  The targeted area for gas drilling includes the Logger’s Path and Rock Run, both are highly valued destinations for visitors.

From the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s Pennsylvania was in the midst of a lumber boom.   Millions of acres were sacrificed.  Mountains were clear cut.  Tops of trees were left to dry, and burning embers spewing from passing steam trains caused devastating wildfires.   Heavy rains caused erosion and flooding in previously “safe” areas.     Little thought was given to the impact of cutting down old growth trees on this scale, while much thought was given to how much money a few people could make.

It took approximately 80 years for the lumber industry to deforest Pennsylvania, and it’s take over 100 years for Pennsylvania taxpayers to bring it back to a small fraction of what it was.

Our forests are once again being targeted for destruction, forests which belong to the people of Pennsylvania.  This time it is not lumber they are after, it’s the natural gas beneath the trees so a few people can make a few dollars, leaving Pennsylvania taxpayers to clean up the mess.

More than 700,000 acres of forest land have already been leased – about twenty percent of that for Marcellus pads. A DCNR study predicts more than 1,000 drilling rigs may dot the forests, once production is at full capacity.

That would lead to “death by a million mosquito bites,” according to Jim Weaver. It’s Weaver’s job to think about the future: he’s the planner in Tioga County, a drilling hotbed. Weaver argues northeast Pennsylvania has a long history of causing long-term environmental damage, for short-term gain.  “You know, in the 1800s, our first extraction occurred, with the timber,” he says. “And they took every tree out of this country. There were no trees. And we have photos that the mountains were bare. And then they came and took the coal.”

It is obvious Pennsylvania has not learned from past mistakes, and seems intent on repeating them.

TREES WILL GROW BACK

It takes only a few minutes to cut down a tree.

Corbett’s economic development secretary, Alan Walker, says the trees will grow back. “It’s a minimum impact on the state forest property, and in a matter of a couple years, it’s going to be re-vegetated.”

With 700,000 acres leased, and 20% destined for drill pads, it means a loss of 140,000 acres.   This is not minimum impact.

How long before a 30 foot tree is grown?  In general, under ideal conditions and depending on the species, a tree will grow about 1 foot a year.   In about 30 years we may have our forest back?   It’s taken over 100 years to restore just a small piece of it after the lumber and coal boom.

A 1997 report estimated Pennsylvania is losing $67-million per year in tourism and sports fishing due to acid mine drainage, a result of coal mining.   How much more will be lost from cutting down our forests to put up a gas rig, building access roads,  and laying pipeline?

Reforesting Pennsylvania’s Wasteland, by William Gardiner Conklin, published in 1916, (download it for free):

conklin trees Per Act 13, Driller Liability ends 1 year after the well is capped.  This amount of time is insufficient to determine if there have been public health problems or adverse effects to the environment as a result of drilling activities.  If there are health problems and adverse effects, who pays – WE DO.

We all will be paying the price not only with our dollars,  but also with our health, our towns, our state.   Are the short term gains worth the long term pains?

Related:

©2013 by Dory Hippauf

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