DCNR Proposes Replacing Recreational Value Lost From Gas Drilling On State Forest Land Bought With Federal Funds With Property In Chester County

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is inviting public comments on a draft Environmental Assessment recommending the recreational value of State Forest land lost when it was leased those lands for drilling from 2008 to 2011 be replaced with land it is purchasing in Chester County(formal notice)

DCNR estimates 138.37 acres of land used for natural gas development in State Forests-- 17 natural gas drilling well pad sites, field compressor stations and 2 associated roads-- and bought with federal Land and Water Conservation Fund money has lost it recreational value.

Under the terms of the Land and Water Conservation Fund purchases, that value must be replaced and approved by the National Park Service.

DCNR’s draft Environmental Assessment says, "Failure to resolve the conversions would put DCNR out of compliance with federal program requirements and potentially ineligible to receive additional LWCF funding."

In January, DCNR proposed to purchase the 987-acre Strawbridge 2 property to expand its White Clay Creek Preserve in Chester County. It has an assessed value of $13 million, according to DCNR.

The assessed value of the 138.37 acres of land leased for drilling which lost its recreation value is $625,000, according to DCNR.

The Strawbridge 2 Property includes more than 7 miles of Big Elk Creek and its tributaries, important forested riparian buffers along them, over 353 acres of mature and young woodlands, over 145 acres of floodplain, 668 acres of prime farmland soils and soils of Statewide importance, and moderate and steep slopes.

It also contains habitat for various threatened and endangered plant and animal species and represents a critical resource in a rapidly developing area of southeastern Pennsylvania.  Portions of the property are currently being farmed.

DCNR intends to use the property to provide passive recreation such as hiking, hunting and wildlife watching.  No recreational facilities are proposed to be developed at this time.

The property is now owned by nonprofit The Conservation Fund.

DCNR said in its draft Environmental Assessment, “While the Strawbridge 2 property is not in the immediate region where the conversions occurred, it is located in a region [“with a higher population density,”] that has experienced extensive deforestation and has a limited amount of publicly accessible land.

“By contrast, the counties where the conversions occurred have the highest concentration of both forestland cover and publicly accessible recreational lands in the Commonwealth.

DCNR also concluded, “While the recreational experience may have changed due to gas development, these activities also give rise to alternate uses, which in some ways, may enhance the experience of recreational users.

“For example, wildlife watchers and hunters may experience an increase in the frequency and diversity of the wildlife present in newly created herbaceous openings.

“Through proper planning and site management, efforts are made to maintain – or even increase – the level of biodiversity located in Pennsylvania’s forests.

“Overall, the impact to recreational use of State forests is minimal. Compared with the overall size of the State forests, the recreational opportunity areas of the State forests have been minimally impacted.”

Click Here for a copy of the draft Environmental AssessmentClick Here for representative photos of the well pads and other gas development referred to in the Environmental Assessment.

Public comments on the draft Environmental Assessment and its recommendations will be accepted by DCNR until June 18.  Read the entire May 4 PA Bulletin notice for more information.

Questions or comments on this proposal should be forwarded to Thomas Ford, Director, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, 400 Market Street, Rachel Carson State Office Building, 5th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301 or sent by email to: RA-NRBRC_CONVERSIONS@pa.gov.

[Posted: May 3, 2019]


Go To Preceding Article     Go To Next Article

Return to This PA Environment Digest's Main Page