New Castle News

Closer Look

February 7, 2013

Our Opinion: Will leasing of Pulaski gamelands impact hunting?

NEW CASTLE — The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s decision to approve an oil and gas lease for gamelands in Pulaski Township raises a question:

Should local hunters be troubled by this move?

While the future is always uncertain and the potential for problems always exists, we don’t see the leasing of the gamelands as a particular problem. It may even offer benefits for hunters.

That comes courtesy of the $1.9 million the commission will receive from Hilcorp Energy Co. in exchange for the five-year lease. That money will be paid even if no drilling ever takes place.

And if drilling does occur and wells produce natural gas or oil, the game commission will receive 20 percent of royalties from the operation.

This money will go into commission coffers. It could be used for stocking game, improving habitat and other projects that would benefit hunters.

We don’t mean to minimize the fact there would be a downside to drilling on gamelands. Drilling is noisy, takes up space and creates the potential for environmental problems.

But much of this is temporary. If there is an impact on hunting, it’s unlikely it will be long term or extensive.

We also should point out that these are lands acquired by the commonwealth mainly to allow hunting. They are not particularly sensitive ecological areas or state parks set aside for broad use. As a result, the negative impact will be minimized.

Of course, it remains problematical whether any drilling will be conducted in the gamelands. That depends on a variety of factors.

Hilcorp has signed leases around the gamelands and is active in Pulaski Township. But we don’t know the results of drilling so far and the degree to which the corporation intends to expand operations.

As we have said in the past, the amount of shale gas drilling that will occur in Lawrence County is unclear at this point. It will be decided by what’s obtained from existing wells in the county, as well as the results from drilling elsewhere.

The signing of a lease does not automatically translate into drilling or a productive well. Over the years, many properties have operated under oil and gas leases with nothing ever happening.

The amount paid by firms in recent years for shale-related leases, however, suggests a greater determination to drill. But at the end of the day, companies will do so only if they see a profit potential.

Local hunters ought to protect their interests in the Pulaski Township gamelands by insisting that drilling activities be handled properly and revenue gained be put back into the land as much as possible. That would set the stage for a long-term benefit.

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