As Gas Boom Cuts Into Forests, Scientists Study How To Put It Back Together

  • Researchers from Penn State University and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources have created a mock wellpad to study ways to reclaim forest land disturbed by gas development. Photo: State Impact

  • The team planted saplings along the edges of the site to simulate interim reclamation steps that can be taken by gas companies. Photo: State Impact

May 15, 2015
By Marie Cusick

In the seven years since Marcellus Shale gas companies began working in Pennsylvania’s state forests, none of the nearly 1,700 affected acres has been fully restored and put back the way it was before drilling began.

Now state foresters and Penn State scientists are trying to plan for the future and help gas companies figure out the best ways to clean up after themselves.

Kelly Sitch spends a lot of time in the woods, keeping an eye on how gas development is changing the landscape. As a botanist with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, his latest project is studying a one-acre plot of land in the Tiadaghton State Forest.

“We are building a mock wellpad to test different soil and ecological restoration techniques,” he says. ”We want to go from a wellpad that is non-forest, to a reclaimed site, where we’re restoring ecosystem function.”

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