Keep drilling out of state parks

12-27-2011 // Larry Schweiger - National Wildlife Federation

This excerpt is from a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed

Pennsylvania's state parks are special places. These public lands provide opportunities for families to connect with nature and for sportsmen and women to enjoy hunting and fishing. Our state parks also allow folks to escape from the stress of traffic jams and crowded cities for cleaner air and more peaceful moments.

Unfortunately, conserving these precious outdoor spaces for recreation and the quality of life they provide for Pennsylvania's residents may conflict with another resource: natural gas.

Sixty-one of Pennsylvania's state parks sit on top of the vast Marcellus Shale formation. While the state owns the land, it does not own the subsurface rights. Nearly one-fourth of Pennsylvania is available for drilling, and the state game commission is also opening up game land for natural gas drilling. In total, 7 million acres of Pennsylvania land, public and private, are already under lease by the natural gas industry, yet the industry wants to drill underneath our valuable state parks.

In this haste to drill, I and other Keystone state hunters and anglers fear that many of the environmental impacts, like air and water pollution, are being ignored. The National Wildlife Federation supports responsible natural gas extraction. But, there are special places that should be preserved for recreation and connecting with nature.

More than 38 million people visit Pennsylvania's state parks every year, spending $818 million annually. National Wildlife Federation's state affiliate, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), is calling on drillers to be good citizens and to help protect our parks and the jobs and economic benefits these public lands provide.

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