Overview Presented By Forester
Inside the Outdoors, January 29, 2010

When Department of Natural Resource’s District Forester for Forest State Forest Ed Callahan stood before the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited members last Wednesday evening, those who packed the room knew they were going to hear a good presentation about the overview of the forests of Pennsylvania. But inevitably, it didn’t take long for the hot subject of the Marcellus Shale drilling to surface.

“Right now,” Callahan pointed out. “we are being hit by it big time.” He went on to add, “Over the last 15 years, we have had over 270,000 acres under lease in any given year. Historically, we have had 912 wells drilled in the state forest, 600 of which are in production right now,” he said.

That was only the beginning. He noted that the Pennsylvania Department of Forestry (PDOF) has had budget difficulties as a result of low timber sales. With consequences, Callahan shared, the legislature saw an opportunity to take advantage of the situation by increasing its flow of revenue. “We are paying the price as a result,” he advised.

Bringing to light what is unfolding on the forested lands, “We put up a 74,000 acre sale in 2008, were told to put up a 30,000 sale last year and an additional 30, 0000 sale this year,” it was brought to the attention of the conservation organization’s audience.

“Right now,” the forester emphasized, “there is a pipeline going up through Forbes State Forest and others going all over the place, and as word has it, you won’t have a thing to say about it. Other big pipelines will be coming across the state and there are wells going in everywhere. We estimate we are going to have 3,000 new wells in the state forest land in the next ten years,” he commented. “On top of that, there may only be 600 paths to these wells, but six wells are being put on a path each about five acres in size. The companies are trashing our roads,” Callahan said.

But he wasn’t the only person to speak up about this matter. FTTU Director Russ Mason related information he gathered on the subject. “I have been studying this matter for over 12 years,” he told fellow members. “I’ve heard horror stories concerning drilling forthcoming out of Texas. We may be faced with the same in the near future,” he said.

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Waterways Conservation Officer Ron Evancho, present at the meeting, told members, “This is our number one topic at the PFBC.” Recently he and Mason attended the Penn State Extension’s Westmoreland County Natural Gas Exploration meeting at the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, Greensburg. When Evancho questioned those conducting the get-together, he questioned leaders as to the environmental impact. “They wanted to bite my head off,” he declared. “People were more interested in the almighty dollar.”

The WCO followed up by stating, “I tried to open up Beaver Run for fishing, but was shot down on the subject because people didn’t want worms in the water. Now, there is marselllus shale drilling all along the reservoir.” The result will be contamination of that water basin by pollutants emptying into the water as a result of the nearby drilling. “We have no idea what’s going to happen in the future,” Evancho concluded.

But not all is gloom and doom.

Pennsylvania has 2.1 million acres of state forests that provide clean water, recreational opportunities, habitat for wildlife, and places to enjoy the tranquility of nature with over 60, 600 acres of the majority of state forestland located in north central region.

Last year, the FSF Chapter of the PDOF, with its office located in Laughlintown along Route 30, celebrated its 100th anniversary. Dating back eleven years to October 1998, following the guidelines set forth by the Forest Stewardship Council, it became the first public forest ever to be certified by Scientific Certification Systems, he revealed.

The district fire marshal also expounded on the State Forest Resource Management Plan. Some of the many facets include: forest fire and disease protection, water purification, low density recreation, including 270 miles of hiking trails, 160 miles of cross country trails, 240 miles for mountain biking in addition to sustaining quality timber and habitat for forest plants and animals.

The district forester concluded by asking, “Do you know that Pennsylvania is second to Alaska in fishing? Now that’s definitely food for thought for those whom have taken our area streams for granted.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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