By Leslie Robertson
NASF Photo Fellow
I started today with a tour of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) main office, meeting many friendly new faces and learning a little bit more about the organization.
I then met with Dave Schmidt of the communications department and we drove to the Tiadaghton State Forest
, one of the working forests where gas is being extracted by way of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking".
The sale of gas in Pennsylvania is a big deal, economically speaking. Much of the land (700,000 out of 2.5 million acres of state park and forest lands across Pennsylvania) is accessible for natural gas development. The DCNR is trying its best to minimize the surface impact that the process has on the state forests, but in some places, the landscape is definitely impacted.
Dave and DCNR Forester Rich told me about how invasive thistle and some other plants have been brought in accidentally by trucks that carry water and other materials to the drilling sites, and that they were working on getting rid of the thistle in the area before it took over. They've really done a good job; I didn’t see any live thistle in the areas that had been recently treated.
The first thing I saw on the gas tour was a group of compressor stations, which is a source of a constant sound as they add pressure to push the gas through the pipelines. The machines were a stark contrast between the natural surrounding, which was blocked off by fences. I learned that the companies were required to follow certain procedures and do things to try to make up for the disturbances they caused. For example, we saw a constructed snake habitat (essentially a small pile of rocks) for snakes to live under and bask on. Although they warned me to watch out for rattlesnakes, the only snake we saw was nonvenomous.
After a delicious lunch from a local general store, we went to Pine Creek and explored the Pine Creek Rail Trail. It was a gorgeous day, and we saw lots of bikers and people enjoying the area. The trail is relatively flat and open to all non-motorized traffic. It looked like an amazing place to go for a run!