Natural Gas Management
The DCNR Bureau of Forestry is broadly responsible for conserving the forests of the commonwealth. One of DCNR's most significant roles is to act, in the public trust, as steward of the commonwealth’s 2.2-million-acre state forest system.
Natural gas development is one of the management activities that historically has occurred on state forest land. The activity contributes significantly to Pennsylvania’s economy and provides a source of domestic energy.
Natural gas development, however, especially at the scale seen in the modern shale-gas era, affects a variety of forest resources and values, such as:
The forest’s wild character and scenic beauty
Plant and wildlife habitat lant and wildlife habitat
Overall, approximately 1.5 million acres of state forest are underlain by Marcellus shale. Of that acreage, 44 percent (673,000 acres) is available for gas development, either through DCNR-issued leases (386,000 acres) or severed lands development (287,000). Modern shale-gas leases restrict surface disturbance in sensitive areas and limit overall surface disturbance to approximately 2 percent of the acreage within the lease tract.
Given the host of potential impacts of shale-gas development to the state forest system and its associated uses and values, the DCNR has established a Shale-Gas Monitoring Program to track, detect, and report on the impacts of the activity. The program aims to provide objective and credible information to the public and inform and improve shale-gas management efforts.
DCNR Shale-Gas Monitoring Program
The DCNR Shale-Gas Monitoring Program was initiated in late 2010, when DCNR was authorized to hire a dedicated monitoring team of 15 staff members. The program began full implementation in 2011, when DCNR completed staff hiring, met with advisory committees, and began developing monitoring protocols, and building a variety of internal monitoring tools.
The bureau takes a three-tiered approach to its monitoring, recognizing that an effective, long-term monitoring program must be multifaceted. These tiers include:
An integrated and dedicated Shale-Gas Monitoring Team
Related forest resource monitoring and on-the-ground management activities
Research and external partner collaboration. These tiers form the foundation for DCNR's shale-gas monitoring effort
An essential function of the Shale-Gas Monitoring Program is to regularly compile and analyze its data and findings. This first report is also an opportunity to communicate basic information about the bureau’s monitoring program and its plans for future monitoring efforts.
Gas Policy and Guidelines
The DCNR Bureau of Forestry’s mission statement clearly identifies the environmentally sound utilization of mineral resources, which includes oil and gas, as a key component of state forest management.
Oil and gas management decisions must be based on the mission, and work toward ensuring the long-term health, viability, and productivity of the commonwealth's forests and conserve native wild plants.