Help protect our state forests and the communities that depend on them!

September 16, 2009

At this very moment our legislators are working on a budget deal that will put at risk one of Pennsylvania's greatest natural assets - our state forest system - and undermine economic development efforts that stand to benefit hundreds of rural communities.  

The current budget agreement includes $100 million in revenue from drilling on state forest land this year, plus another $125 million next fiscal year.  To raise this money, the state would have to lease some 100,000 acres of additional state forest land - far more than officials at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) believe can be leased without severely fragmenting the forest, degrading water resources and burdening roads and other infrastructure.  Some 660,000 acres of state forest land are already open to oil and gas drilling.  Any further expansion of fossil fuel extraction within Pennsylvania's public land must be based on careful study and a full understanding of the environmental, fiscal and community impacts, not as a hurried budget-plugging measure.

Why this matters to us:

As Pennsylvania's leading advocate for sound land use policies, 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania believes our state forest system is a treasure that deserves protection, not just because of its environmental value, but also because of its long-term economic development potential.  Outdoor recreation is the fastest growing segment of the tourism market, and increasing numbers of visitors are attracted to Pennsylvania's vast forest lands.  In fact, through its Conservation Landscape Initiatives, DCNR and other agencies are helping to leverage the tourism value of state forests in the Pennsylvania Wilds and other parts of the state.  Recent research in the Pennsylvania Wilds shows that the state's investments in trails, scenic highways, and marketing efforts are starting to pay off in terms of increased tourism to rural communities that desperately need new economic opportunities.  By opening tens of thousands of acres of additional state forest land to gas drilling, however, the state risks killing the goose that lays the golden egg of tourism by making its forested areas much less attractive to visitors.

We support thoughtful, well-planned, strategic use of irreplaceable resources - whether environmental or fiscal. Trading public land for unproven, short-term economic gain would continue an unfortunate practice that has degraded Pennsylvania in many well-documented ways.

If you care about protecting the forests of Penn's Woods and the communities that depend on them, your state legislators need to hear from you TODAY.  Please call your representatives and urge them to oppose any budget deal that opens large amounts of additional state land to gas drilling without a thorough assessment of the impacts on communities and the environment.  

Phone calls are more effective than e-mails, and a call followed by a brief e-mail is best.  To find out how to contact your representative, follow this link, and enter your zip code in the upper right corner.

Please call now.  Your forests depend on it.
Thank you!

Judy Schwank

10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania