State Parks at Risk—Take Action to Save Them

From the Forest Coalition (


Cook Forest, Ohiopyle, Ricketts Glen, Cherry Springs–Only one of these State Parks is protected from gas drilling.


You can take action to protect the rest.


Make yourself heard! Please write to your State Representative and Senator, demanding a 5 year pause in new gas leases of State Lands. Let them know you are a person of faith and that it is important to protect our fragile land. Find their contact information at


You can also use the Take Action page at PennFuture’s website at


And then write a letter to the editor of your paper.


In a May 2 article in the Harrisburg Patriot-News (, reporter Donald Gilliland described how the Hemlocks in the Forest Cathedral at Cook Forest State Park were spared the ax during Pennsylvania’s lumbering boom in the 19th century, but they might not be so lucky during the Marcellus Shale boom in the 21st century.


Those Hemlocks are designated as a National Natural Landmark; Cook Forest State Park was created specifically to preserve them. However, the state does not own the mineral rights under the park.


That means the state has little power when the Marcellus gas companies want to drill there.  

The state has been buying mineral rights under state parks with money from the Oil and Gas Lease of 1955, but Gov. Ed Rendell and the Legislature drained that fund to balance the budget.


Gas drillers are interested in Ohiopyle State Park, but they have not yet been given permission to access the park, pending proof of ownership of mineral rights. Ricketts Glen State Park is another area of interest from gas drillers because Pennsylvania’s proximity to the Northeast urban market makes Marcellus exploration attractive.


The gas industry giants are flocking to PA to make a killing. They are contributing to legislators’ campaign coffers and preparing massive press and public relations blitzes to reassure the public.  PA is expected to surpass Oklahoma this year and be second only to Texas in the number of active drilling rigs.


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last year that DCNR could not place special conditions on a proposal to drill for gas in Oil Creek State Park in Venango County.



Penn Future President Jan Jarrett said that if the Legislature were to allow the oil and gas lease fund to be replenished by royalties that come in from wells, some money could be used to buy mineral rights beneath “priority” state parks.


She pointed to Cherry Springs State Park, which has become famous nationally among amateur astronomers in the last decade for the quality of its dark skies. Park attendance has grown by more than 66 percent in eight years, with nearly 9,000 people attending astronomy programs there last year.


The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources purchased the mineral rights under Cherry Springs in 2007. “We’re not going to be able to save it all,” Jarrett said. “But we should have a discussion over what we really want to preserve.”

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