A coalition of hunters and anglers say no more state forest lands should be leased to oil and gas developers. The groups, primarily consisting of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, sent a letter to Corbett on Thursday, telling him the 700,000 acres already under lease threatens the state’s “hunting and fishing legacy.”
“Pennsylvanians have a rich heritage of hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor traditions on state forest lands. Passed down from generation to generation, these sporting traditions have become part of the commonwealth’s cultural and social fabric. Hunting and fishing is not just a pastime though—it is also big business. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than $4.3 billion in revenue is generated in Pennsylvania each year from fishing, hunting and wildlife-related recreation—and state forests serve as the cornerstone for these activities.”
The groups’ letter points to a 2010 study by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that concludes new gas drilling leases would “significantly alter the ecological integrity and wild character of our state forest system.”
The sportsmen tell Corbett they’re worried about forest “edge effects” associated with clearing land for drilling, especially in the Southwestern and North central parts of the state.
“North central Pennsylvania contains the bulk of the commonwealth’s Class A and wilderness trout watersheds. This area also encompasses Wildlife Management Unit 2G—the area that had the highest rates of grouse flush in the state in early 2011 and the highest bear harvest during the 2011 season.”
Among the groups that signed on to the letter are the National Wildlife Foundation, United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna County Federation of Sportsmen Clubs, and the state’s local chapters of Trout Unlimited.
“Gov. Corbett is looking for a quick, easy way to fill the gaps in the state budget,” said Ken Undercoffer, president of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, “but we can’t sacrifice our state forest system, our natural resources or our hunting and fishing heritage, for a short-term gain.”
Governor Ed Rendell signed an executive order forbidding any more leasing of state forests just before he left office. But Corbett is expected to lift that ban, and some speculate that announcement could be made in his upcoming state of the state.