PA: Hunters may be shocked by Marcellus gas activity

University Park, Pa.- Hunters venturing out this fall may be
surprised by the level of disturbance and activity on public lands
in the northcentral, northeastern and southwestern regions of the
state, according to a wildlife expert in Penn State’s College of
Agricultural Sciences.

Natural-gas exploration and development associated with the
Marcellus shale formation have increased exponentially over the
past year.

“As a hunter, you may be shocked by the level of
natural-gas-drilling and production activity associated with
Marcellus shale on public lands in Pennsylvania,” said Margaret
Brittingham, professor of wildlife resources and extension wildlife
specialist.

“As of Oct. 1, there were 4,510 active Marcellus permits.
Compare this with Oct. 1, 2009, when there were 1,970 permits.”

Accompanying the drilling activity, hunters will find new or
modified roads in many areas and may encounter large volumes of
truck traffic in areas where active drilling is occurring.

To accommodate hunters and reduce conflicts, Brittingham noted,
the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has
vowed to limit heavy truck traffic associated with Marcellus
activities in many areas on the three days of bear season (Nov. 20,
22 and 23) and the opening two days of the statewide firearms
deer-hunting season (Nov. 29 and 30) and the two Saturdays of deer
season (Dec. 4 and 11).

“Hunters may also come upon large open areas that are cleared or
being cleared as well pad sites,” Brittingham said. “The well pad
is considered to be a restricted area that is not open to the
public. The dividing line between the public forest and the
restricted area is the native vegetation line.

“I recommend that hunters avoid them,” she added. “Individuals
standing in the native vegetation are considered to be on public
ground – those standing on the well pad are in restricted areas and
fall under the rules and regulations of the company doing the
drilling and completion activities.”

Brittingham pointed out that most active drilling locations have
a security guard shack housing individuals who greet, identify and
limit people accessing the pad. This is mainly a safety feature,
she explained, in case a major accident or event happens on the pad
and the gas companies want to keep members of the general public
from being injured.

“Individuals hunting within the pad boundaries may be asked for
their names and purpose for being there,” she said. “And the well
pad locations where there are drilling and fracking activities
occurring will be posted with Safety Zone signs 150 yards from the
edge of the pad.

“No hunting will be allowed within the safety zone. With both
drilling and framing, there are workers temporarily living on the
site 24 hours a day. Pads not subject to drilling or production
activities will not be posted.”

Hunters are advised to check out their favorite hunting sites
ahead of time as access may be restricted in areas surrounding
active drilling operations, Brittingham advised. An updated list of
what roads are open for hunting season on state forest land can be
found at:
http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/deer/huntingaccess.aspx.

A number of websites have information on where drilling is
occurring. To view a map of current Marcellus, permits see
http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/topogeo/oilandgas/Marcellus_Permits_10_10.pdf.
For the most up- to-date and accurate information, contact the
appropriate DCNR district forest office
http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforests/index.aspx.

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