Marcellus Shale Impacts
Inside the Outdoors, January 06
, 2012

Whenever Trout Unlimited’s National Marcellus Shale Program Coordinator Dave Sewak visits the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve to speak to Forbes Trail Chapter Trout Unlimited’s meetings, he always brings with him information worthy of notation.

The December meeting was no exception.

Members in attendance were very attentive when he talked about the effects of the drilling for gas and the ramifications that have been reported to TU in the past year.

“As Pennsylvania’s 2011 hunting and fishing seasons come to an end, there is no longer a doubt that Marcellus Shale drilling impacts sportsmen,” he said. “Approximately one-third, or 700,000 acres of the 2.1 million acres of Pennsylvania’s state forests and fame lands are now leased for drilling. This year many sportsmen reported public lands available in the past are now posted by gas companies, limiting access to areas they traditionally hunted or fished. Although, some gas companies suspended operations temporarily for part of the deer season, it remains to be seen if they will forgo profits for spring gobbler hunters and trout fishermen,” he stated.

But will the game be there? That’s the real question, according to Sewak, an avid bear, deer and bird hunter, and fly fisherman. Although firm numbers are not in yet on the impact on Pennsylvania hunting, he reported a distributing similarity to the impacts now being reported in the west by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management.

In western states, where Marcellus-like deep gas well drilling has been underway for at least five years, on public hunting areas leased for drilling, mule deer populations are reduced nearly 66%, the same for pronghorn sheep, and sage grouse have been reduced to levels so low, they will soon be considered a species too threatened for hunting.

In reference to the Marcellus Shale regions of Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia, “There are over 13 million sportsmen and women,” he said, “whose interests are at stake. In response, Trout Unlimited has formed an alliance with other sportsmen’s organizations including the Izaak Walton League, National Wildlife Federation, Quality Deer Management Association and many grassroots sportsmen’s clubs.”

He then advised members to check out the website, http://sportsmenalliance.org.

Again, he said, “The Sportsmen Alliance is not opposed to gas drilling and recognizes the potential economic and social benefits. But it is concerned that the current state and local policies governing gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale do not adequately protect valuable and irreplaceable natural resources, including clean water and critical habitat for fish and wildlife.”

Perhaps, most surprising in Sewak’s report, were the economic numbers. “More than $8.4 billion in revenue is generated each year in Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia – the three largest Marcellus Shale states – from fishing, hunting and wildlife – recreation. That’s almost twice as much revenue as Marcellus Shale gas is projected to generate maximum production ten years from now! And this recreation industry creates more than four times as many jobs as the shale play is predicted to create! So, where are the jobs, jobs, jobs? Not where we thought. And if our wildlife go, there go the jobs!” he said.

Trout Unlimited funds seven full-time staff, engaged in conservation and public education on Marcellus Shale issue. FTTU has an active Marcellus Shale monitoring program.

The organization meets at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve, St. Vincent College. To gain access, take the road opposite the Dairy Queen on St. Rt. 981 in Latrobe and follow it to its end where you will find the red barn. There you will be on the St. Vincent College property where the building is found. The meeting is held on the lower level.

The public is welcome. For more information, see FTTU website at http://forbestrailtu.org.

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May this story create in all of us that, for the New Year, we must oblige ourselves to give greater concern to our environment, for if we become apathetic to the cause, we will lose that which is most precious to us.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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