Pennsylvania Hunting and Fracking Vie for State Lands –

Pennsylvania Hunting and Fracking Vie for State Lands –

Volunteer fishing enthusiasts look for unknown trout streams and test water quality

Volunteer fishing enthusiasts look for unknown trout streams and test water quality.


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About the Author
John Hayes

412-263-1991Call 412-263-1991
Outdoors editor John Hayes grew up in Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs in a culture steeped in hunting, fishing, camping and hiking. At his first job in journalism, he cofounded the locally published “Outdoor Odyssey” magazine. Since then, he has worked as editor of City Paper, RockFlash and The Saltsburg Press, and edited a regional monthly newsletter for Trout Unlimited. A staff member at the Post-Gazette since 2000, he’s written news articles, features, entertainment critiques and outdoors stories, and coordinated Web and print programs for teen writers. His work has won Golden Quill, Keystone and Sigma Delta Chi awards.
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Volunteer fishing enthusiasts look for unknown trout streams and test water quality
Sunday, April 10, 2011
By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette
Sean Brady of Observatory Hill, who says he’s “addicted to fly fishing,” tests the water of Pine Creek in Hampton.

In some Pennsylvania watersheds, the only thing separating Marcellus Shale drilling crews from a fortune underground could be brook trout.

Tomorrow in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will vote on the designation of 98 streams statewide as Naturally Reproducing Wild Trout Waters, following the recent discovery there of trout populations, some by volunteer anglers working in a program that trains them to do stream surveys.

The Wild Trout designation would trigger further state Department of Environmental Protection testing and possible issuance of land use restrictions in those watersheds that could limit development, including drilling.

Sixteen of the small streams and tributaries recommended for protection are located in Westmoreland, Fayette and Somerset counties. One more is in Cambria.


As more than 800,000 Pennsylvania fishing license holders prepare for the opening of trout season on April 16 in most of the state, some angler volunteers are searching vulnerable waterways for unrecorded trout colonies, or charting baseline water conditions in Marcellus drilling zones that could be used for reference in potential pollution emergencies.

John Arway, executive director of the Fish and Boat Commission, said the water monitoring is not intended to thwart gas drilling — it’s a means of conducting “necessary research in tough economic times,” and couldn’t be done without help from citizen scientists.

“We don’t have enough eyes and ears out there. I don’t have enough biologists to monitor all of the water that we need to check to protect the resource,” he said.

Two separate volunteer water-monitoring projects with roughly the same goals are under way in Pennsylvania. One is run by Fish and Boat, the other by Washington, D.C.-based Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit cold-water conservation group with chapters in Pennsylvania. The nascent projects still lack focus and coordination in some areas, but the parallel projects are to intersect later this year and become a volunteer-based research tool of the Fish and Boat Commission.

Fish and Boat’s five-year Trout Management Plan, launched last year, calls on volunteers to provide data on 45,513 streams statewide that have never been visited by the agency’s biologists. Through the Unassessed Waters Program, volunteer students and interns at Lycoming and Kings’ colleges in central Pennsylvania take a day of training before heading out to headwaters and tributaries in specific watersheds in search of several things — most importantly, wild trout.

» A website for ongoing coverage, resources, comments and more.

If Fish and Boat commissioners designate a stream section as Wild Trout Waters, DEP staffers collect additional data on invertebrates and determine if the waters will be classified a High-Quality Cold-Water Fishery (which restricts development in the watershed) or Exceptional Value Fishery (which mandates more stringent restrictions).

“Originally the program was designed to look at waters where urban development growth was highest,” said Dave Miko, Fish and Boat chief of fisheries management, who wrote the state’s Trout Management Plan. “When the Marcellus Shale industry boomed, we re-prioritized those waters with [potential drilling] activity, as well as urban growth areas. … These are waters we certainly want to go look at because we feel those waters are most at risk of degradation.”

Trout need cold water. In particular, Pennsylvania’s official state fish and only stream trout native to its waters, the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), thrives in about 54 degrees. Since the sealing of many coal mines in the state, lots of small streams that 20 years ago ran red or white with toxins are now healthy enough to attract caddis, mayflies and brook or brown trout. The discovery of reproducing populations of wild trout presents a clear and unmistakable indicator of clean water, an invaluable resource.

Of prime concern to the Fish and Boat Commission are potentially high-value cold-water tributaries that flow into warm-water streams or rivers with lower water-quality ratings. The unassessed tributaries, which potentially hold trout, currently get the lower classifications and lesser protections of the waters they flow to.

The easiest way to prove fish are making babies is to identify the presence of two year-classes of a species. Under the assessment program, volunteers are trained in the use of electro-fishing devices.

“Find trout smaller than 6 inches long and 12 inches long in the same place and you know you have multiple year-classes,” said Mr. Miko. “That means they’re reproducing.”

As part of Fish and Boat’s Trout Management Plan, the Unassessed Waters Program is funded through existing resources including grants, angler licensing and permitting fees. Last year, the program’s volunteers sampled more than 65 waterways. Fifty-five percent contained reproducing populations of brown or brook trout, prime indicators that could trigger DEP involvement if the Fish and Boat commissioners change those streams’ designations tomorrow.

By next year, said Mr. Miko, the expanding program will work with nine training campuses statewide, including the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Trout Unlimited takes a different route to the same destination.

Essentially a Washington lobbying firm funded through dues paid by chapter members, TU has no official position on Marcellus Shale drilling. But with Pennsylvania’s 52 chapters — the largest state council in TU — the regional issue has piqued the interest of the group’s leadership, which recently hired Dave Sewak of Windber, near Johnston, to coordinate its volunteer-based water monitoring program, Coldwater Conservation Corps. In southwest Pennsylvania, TU’s Penn’s Woods West, Forbes Trail and Chestnut Ridge chapters participate.

Mr. Sewak, who worked on community conservation projects at the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, visits the chapters to explain the program and trains volunteers to use $300 monitoring kits provided by TU national. Each kit includes a GPS unit for precise marking of locations, pH strips for measuring acidity and alkalinity, items for measuring and recording data, and one LaMotte Tracer Pocket Tester, which measures temperature, conductivity and total dissolved solids. Volunteers also take water samples that are analyzed at Dickenson College in Carlisle, south of Harrisburg, for barium and strontium, signature elements of hydraulic fracturing fluids used in Marcellus Shale drilling. Volunteers are coached to bracket a drilling location with samples taken upstream and downstream of the site.

It’s not easy — volunteers are required to return to the same sites multiple times, log precision data and adhere to a rigorous data collection protocol.

“Development is moving very rapidly, and the state just doesn’t have the wherewithal to keep track of everything, especially in rural areas,” Mr. Sewak said. “Our guys are trained to know the whole [drilling] process. We put together a conservation success index based on solid science. They’ll be testing throughout the year and have a real good idea of what the stream should look like.”

It doesn’t always work that way. Some volunteers say they wish they were given more direction.

“There isn’t much action guidance on this program,” said Monty Murty of Laughlintown, president of Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited of Ligonier. He completed the Coldwater Conservation Corps training, and plans to begin testing as soon as Westmoreland County creeks drop to normal levels.

“They leave it up to the chapters to identify the most risky sites for Marcellus Shale impact,” he said. “At our next meeting, Step 1 will be to review maps in our area and prioritize sites to test baselines.” Nevertheless, he said, “It’s good work. Something that has to be done.”

Volunteer water monitor Sean Brady of Observatory Hill said he got involved because he’s “addicted to fly fishing.” With a biology degree and a background as assistant executive director at Venture Outdoors, he’s Riverlife Pittsburgh’s development director and a Penn’s Woods West Trout Unlimited member. Having completed training, he sees the Coldwater Conservation Corps as potentially useful, but says it remains “very focused on the details, but kind of unclear on where they want us to go and what to test.”

That could change later this year. Bob Weber, head of Fish and Boat’s Unassessed Waters Program, said he’s had discussions with Mr. Sewak on bringing the citizen science programs together. “I’m going to use [the TU program] to collect water samples in a lot of these streams, to help me to prioritize where to send sampling crews, and Dave [Sewak] will be the liaison between the Fish and Boat Commission and the TU chapters,” he said.

Steve Forde, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said he wasn’t aware of the details of the volunteer testing programs, but in general the industry would welcome it.

“I think we have shown over several years we embrace added transparency on a variety of levels,” he said. “We are a highly regulated, highly transparent and consequently highly sophisticated industry, particularly when it comes to water quality.”

Mr. Arway said he believes gas can be extracted from Marcellus Shale without polluting water resources.

“Most operators,” he said, “want to do this well and safely.”

Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited members will choose assessment sites at their next meeting, 7 p.m. April 20 at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve in Latrobe, 724-238-7860.


First published on April 10, 2011 at 12:00 am

Read more:

Lake Como Hydrofracking- Impacts on Hunters Fishermen-Outdoorsmen-Wed. Nov. 8

 (hike or ski in Bear Swamp then cocoa at the Inn for a discussion with Chris).

Hydrofracking: Impacts on Hunters Fishermen and Outdoorsmen (and snowmobilers, cross country skiers and all outdoors-lovers)


An Afternoon with Chris Burger




Lake Como Inn()

1307 East Lake Road Map

Cortland, NY 13045 (315) 496-2149

Join Chris for a presentation on the Marcellus Shale Gas Play covering history of how gas is formed and extracted, impacts, ways industry strive to protect the environment and problems they experience, and how people react .

Chris  Burger owns Horizon Enterprises: Resource Management Consultant Co.

Degrees in Chemical Engineering, Social Psychology, and Economics

Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Co-founder and Chair

Broome County Government Gas Drilling Education Committee

Center for Civic Engagement

NYS Sierra Club Gas Task Force

NYS Council of Churches Public Policy Commission

Southern Tier East Regional Development Strategy Committee

Food available at the Lake Como Inn, call Al for prices and menu by Monday December 6th if you wish to buy dinner.

Sponsor: Tri-County Skaneateles Lake Pure Water Association.

For more info and future events in the Skaneateles Lake watershed –


NYS State Forest Management Plan Finalized

NYS State Forest Management Plan Finalized

This plan and generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) will guide the future management of the state’s 786,329-acre State Forest holdings. Key goals focus on ecosystem health and diversity, economic benefits, recreational opportunities, forest conservation and sustainable management.

The plan was presented in draft form on September 1, 2010. The draft plan was available for public comment until October 29th. Comments were also received and considered after the deadline. Over 3,000 written comments were received. Nine public hearings were held throughout the state from September 14th – 30th.

The plan has been edited based on public input and is now considered final DEC Office of Natural Resources policy for the development of State Forest Unit Management Plans. A responsiveness document will be posted on this website, and will include DEC’s responses to the many comments received.*** Revision of the plan is scheduled to occur every 10 years.  it is not up as of this writing

Notice of Acceptance of Final GEIS

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), as lead agency, has accepted a Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Final Strategic Plan for State Forest Management. Electronic copies of the Final Strategic Plan and Final GEIS are available online at: or by requesting a CD by e-mail at or by calling NYS DEC regional offices.

NYS DEC announces the completion of the Final Strategic Plan for State Forest Management (Plan) and Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS). This notice has been prepared in accordance with Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law. NYS DEC held public hearings in each NYS DEC administrative region on the Draft Plan, released September 1, 2010 and accepted public comments until October 29, 2010. These hearings also served as public hearings on the Draft GEIS pursuant to the applicable SEQR Act (6NYCRR §617.9(a)(4)).

The final Plan is an update and revision of the Draft Strategic Plan for State Forest Management which includes identifications of future management goals for NYS DEC administered State Forests. It establishes statewide management guidelines for NYS DEC staff through a process of public involvement and review. The plan provides a foundation for the development of Unit Management Plans (UMPs), which set forth the specific actions to be undertaken by NYS DEC on individual State Forests. As individual UMPs are developed, this plan will serve as a guide and will be included by reference. This plan will be revised at least once every ten years.

This Plan describes how State Forests will be managed in a sustainable manner by promoting ecosystem health, enhancing landscape biodiversity, protecting soil productivity and water quality. In addition, State Forests will continue to provide the many recreational, social and economic benefits valued so highly by the people of New York State. NYS DEC will continue the legacy which started 80 years ago, leaving these lands to the next generation in better condition than they are today.

Five goals were developed for the management of State Forests. These goals were based on the criteria developed in the Montreal Process and are as follows:

  • Goal 1, to provide healthy and biologically diverse ecosystems;
  • Goal 2, to maintain human-made State Forest assets;
  • Goal 3, to provide recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities;
  • Goal 4, to provide economic benefits to the people of the State; and
  • Goal 5, to provide a legal framework for forest conservation and sustainable management of State Forests.

Activities that have the potential to cause significant adverse impacts were addressed and include: increased public recreational use, facility development, prescribed fire, silvicultural activities, oil and gas drilling and control of competing vegetation and invasive species. Potential impacts were further discussed in the Draft GEIS including soil erosion, damage to vegetation, increased smoke and associated odors, surface and groundwater effects and effects of pesticides on the environment, including non-target species. The final Plan discusses all of these potential impacts and describes recommended management activities and mitigation measures to minimize potential impacts.

Contact: Justin Perry, NYS DEC – Division of Lands and Forests, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4255, Phone: (518) 402-9436 begin_of_the_skype_

highlighting              (518) 402-9436      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, E-mail:

Comments on:Final DEC Strategic Plan for Forest Management

Comparison of draft and final Strategic Plans for forest Management–Jim Weiss

The Strategic Plan for State Forest Management has been released by NYSDEC.
From the executive summary: Mineral Resources

  • The leasing and development of natural gas and oil resources can provide jobs and income to
  • the State while increasing domestic energy supplies. Oil and natural gas are valuable resources
  • which can provide energy and revenue, as well as the opportunity for improvements to the
  • existing infrastructure of the State Forests (such as improving access through upgrading existing
  • roads, culverts and gates).
  • As with any other human activity on State lands, oil and natural gas exploration and
  • development can impact the environment. The biggest risks from natural gas exploration and
  • development are potential impacts on underground aquifers and residential water wells in the
  • immediate area of drilling. While techniques used today are far more advanced and protective
  • of ground water, there are still risks   as with almost any construction or development project.
  • The Department will incorporate all available technologies and methods to reduce these risks.
  • Emerging issues include disposal by injection and carbon capture.  Neither of these activities is
  • currently taking place on State Forest lands.
  • Recommended actions include:
  • • Apply a hierarchical approach that classifies areas of each State Forest into specific
  • categories.
  • • Adapt the draft guidance for pipelines on State Forests to the DEC policy system and
  • expanding it to include guidance on strategies for dealing with existing pipeline corridors
  • and establishment of new pipeline corridors.  If the issue of existing unauthorized
  • pipelines cannot be sufficiently addressed at the policy level, propose legislation to
  • resolve the issue.
  • • Finalize and adopt the current draft policy on seismic exploration.
  • • Adopt policies addressing disposal by injection and carbon capture and sequestration.
  • • Adopt a policy on tract assessments for oil and gas leasing, based on mineral character
  • and expected mineral activity, site condition, and public use.
  • • Adopt a policy on water use for oil and gas extraction, based on information in theDivision of Mineral Resources GEIS
  • Starting on page 226 of Chapter 5 you will find the portion relating to hydrofracking.  The concerns raised by the public seem to have at least been considered on page 331 which the following link will take you to: Click here: Chapters 5-7 + Appendices Starting on page 226 of Chapter 5 you will find the portion relating to hydrofracking.  The concerns raised by the public seem to have at least been considered on page 231 which the following link will take you to: Click here: . Text of Mineral Resources section:


    The document appears to have sidestepped an important pipeline issue:  The DEC correctly points to the PSC (Public Service Commission ) as the controlling authority for lines that are outside the wellpad.

    However, the plan sidesteps when it come to handling the pipeline ROW (right of way). On non-state forest land this is handled in one of two ways: a) by a formal easement with the landholder or, b) thru an eminent domain (condemnation) procedure (whereby the ROW is “taken”, presumeaby against the owner’s wishes and the owner is compensated.

    Eminent domain applies in two cases: a) the pipeline is between states and the authority is federal (by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission , FERC), lines permitted by FERC carry emminent domain authority. b) within state lines, these carry eminent domain authority IF the Co. has Public Utility status.

    Now, what’s the pipeline deal in the forests?  will the state negotiate for ROWs, or will it require eminent domain authority in which case the Co will, in conjunction with the PSC or FERC, determine the routing (in this case DEC will NOT be a controlling entity, but presumeably consulted)?

    Remember, no wells without pipelines.


    DEC Strategic Plan for State Forest Management (DRAFT)

    This draft plan and generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) will guide the future management of the state’s 786,329-acre State Forest holdings and is being made available for public review and comment. Key goals focus on ecosystem health and diversity, economic benefits, recreational opportunities, forest conservation and sustainable management.

    Press Release

    Guides to understanding the Strategic Plan:


    Essay on Impact of Industrial Drilling in State Forests

    Lost in the Woods By Peter Mantius

    BURDETT, Oct. 25 — It’s open season on New York’s state forests.

    State regulators are asking for public comment by Oct. 29 on a proposal to let gas drillers hydrofrack the forests and criss-cross them with construction roads and natural gas gathering lines.

    In Schuyler County alone, this could affect — or decimate — more than 10,000 acres in five state forests: Sugar Hill, Coon Hollow, Cinnamon Lake, Beaver Dam and Goundry Hill.

    Most of this land was acquired about 80 years ago for about $4 an acre. The forests are used by hikers, hunters, horseback riders, snowmobilers and others.

    The idea of industrializing any portion of them would appear to violate both the spirit and the letter of the Depression-era laws passed to assemble and protect them. Those special woodlands, the laws said, shall be “forever devoted to reforestation and the establishment and maintenance thereon of forests for watershed protection, the production of timber and for recreation and kindred purposes.”

    The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation apparently isn’t worried about every fine point in dusty old statutes.

    Applying an extraordinarily broad legal interpretation, the agency is prepared to expand the list of legal “kindred purposes” to include so called high-volume hydraulic fracturing, toxic wastewater storage in ponds, underground natural gas storage, heavy trucking and widespread road and pipeline construction.

    This comes from the same agency that warns state forest hikers: “Don’t litter! Stay on designated trails. Do not cause damage by heedlessly trampling trail side vegetation.”

    So littering is bad, but hydrofracking is OK? Surely, this agency is lost in the woods. Read more of this post