Pennsylvania's sportsmen and women have been out in force in recent months, hunting in some of the most pristine and beautiful lands in the nation. As we've traversed these lands we've come across a new neighbor - the Natural Gas Industry.
The Keystone Energy Forum was formed to generate a public understanding of the economic development, job growth and energy independence opportunities presented to the nation by the vast Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves that underlie Pennsylvania. It is a diverse consortium of Pennsylvanians who recognize the potential the natural gas industry has for their communities. The Forum, which includes members from all corners of the state and with varied interests, hopes to generate open dialog, expand knowledge and educate Pennsylvania's diverse communities on the natural gas industry's potential and future in Pennsylvania.
The sportsmen's community recognizes the Marcellus Shale's tremendous energy potential and positive impact on the local economy, especially in distressed communities, as well as those who own the land and mineral rights. Still, they want to know, and have a voice for their concerns in what the industry has in store for our rich outdoor sporting and recreational heritage and habitats. The Keystone Energy Forum and the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs have partnered to bring more awareness to Marcellus Shale operations and to the impacts on hunting, trapping, angling and other outdoor recreation, and have opened a direct dialog between the sportsmen's community and the natural gas industry. Like responsible hunting, responsible gas development is dependent upon good relationships and communications with landowners and neighbors.
The geology of the Marcellus formation suggests that areas in the southwest, north central and northeastern regions of Pennsylvania may be especially productive. These regions also encompass some of our state's most popular and pristine outdoor sporting and recreational regions. Thus the natural gas industry is proactively taking steps to ensure the safety of our sportsmen and women while they are in the field, and the natural habitats which support our wildlife and aquatic populations. It is our hope this partnership will continue throughout the years and will create a collaborative dialog that increases awareness and understanding of the operations, practices and needs of both the industry and outdoor enthusiasts.
Revised hunting regulations have not been enacted since the Marcellus Shale drilling boom, but Game Commission officials urge hunters to maintain a 150-yard safety zone radius around drilling sites and never shoot in the direction of a rig. A number of websites have information on where drilling is occurring and DCNR provides a map of current Marcellus permits as well as a list of which roads are open for hunting season on State Forest Land at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry, under the "news and events" section.
PFSC recognizes the need for responsible energy development and the economic benefit. Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation will leave a footprint on our environment. We must work together to minimize the impact to Penn's Woods while extracting this valuable resource. We hope our partnership with Keystone Energy Forum will serve as a platform from which to gain knowledge about natural gas drilling, as well as be a voice for concerns with regard to human safety and the environment.
All sportsmen and women with interests, concerns, curiosity and ideas are welcomed and encouraged to join the Keystone Energy Forum at keystoneenergyforum.com and share their input.
Ted Onufrak represents the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs. Bill Stewart represents the Keystone Energy Forum.