John Quigley, then Acting Secretary of PA’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), called development of the Marcellus Shale play “the overarching challenge
of conservation and community revitalization in the state” during his April 10 address at the PA Land Trust Association (PALTA) conference.
Quigley, who was confirmed as DCNR’s Secretary a few days ago, specifically cited proposed leasing of more state forest land as a solution to PA’s budget crisis as a major challenge to conservation work. “Proposed legislation would require DCNR to offer for lease any acre of state forest land that has been nominated more than once for drilling,” said Quigley. “That is all of it. All 2.2 million acres would fall within this category.”
Quigley enumerated to the PALTA audience examples of what that acreage represents:
- 180,000 acres of wild and natural areas
- 200,000 acres of old-growth forest
- 90,000 acres of high-value recreation, water resources and eco-tourism land in the Poconos
- 20,000 eco-tourism acres in the Laurel Highlands
- 300,000 acres of primitive or semi-primitive non-motorized recreation areas
- 130,000 acres of significant wetlands, riparian areas, viewsheds, vistas, steep slopes, threatened and endangered species, unique habitats and special recreation zones
The PA Environment Digest reports that during a committee hearing before Quigley’s confirmation as DCNR Secretary, Senator Mary Jo White (R-Venango), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, questioned Quigley about whether he understood the commitment to produce $180 million from state forest land gas leases to help balance this year’s budget. Quigley said Governor Rendell’s position has been to lease the least amount of state forest land to hit the revenue target and noted leasing more state forest land could get into environmentally sensitive areas.
During his address to the PALTA audience and in the committee hearing before his confirmation, Quigley also addressed the issue of a natural gas severance tax, which he supports.