Protect Your Parks

Mary Nagle - Contributing Writer
Posted on Monday 8th June 2009

The Pennsylvania State Legislature has proposed a budget that would cut $19 million from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR) budget, a cut so severe that it would cause the closure of up to 35 protected forests and parks, about a quarter of those in the state.

Natural Gas Drilling

This budget cut comes in the wake of numerous requests by oil companies to drill shallow gas wells, hoping to tap into the vast reservoirs of natural gas believed to be below these forests. Although these wells are “shallow”, these pockets are anywhere from 5,000 to 9,000 ft. underground. Drilling this deep would cause huge environmental disturbance on the surface, not to mention the numerous other environmental hazards that come hand in hand with drilling. If these requests are honored, over 2 million acres of forestland will be exposed to the oil industry.

Furthermore, the parks that would close are host to over 3 million visitors annually and are a main source of tourism in rural Pennsylvania, an industry responsible for at least $57 million spent on local goods and services. A loss this size would be detrimental to local economies and would ultimately take away from the state’s budget. What’s more, the bill would likely eliminate the state forest rangers who ensure safety of both the parks and their visitors.

Conservation is also at risk. “The Senate’s proposal would be absolutely devastating to these rural areas and our efforts to preserve our natural resources for present and future generations,” says DCNR acting Secretary John Quigley. Along with harboring natural resources, Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests are home to a variety of species both on and off the endangered species list.

Finally, this budget cut would render 40,000 acres of forest vulnerable to gypsy moths because the DCNR would not be able to treat these areas; and would eradicate a program that allows landowners to purchase tree seedlings to help protect watersheds and wildlife, control erosion, and reclaim old mining areas.

To learn more and take action, visit DCNR's website, or e-mail your state senate.

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