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Queens Chronicle

‘Fracktivists’ defend state forests at DEC

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Posted: Thursday, October 7, 2010 12:00 am

Members of Frack Action spoke out against the process of natural gas drilling called hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, at the Department of Environmental Conservation’s hearing regarding the management of state forests on Thursday.

The group is against the drilling, which has been found to threaten the environment, at times allowing chemicals and gas to seep into the water supply.

In a month crowded with public hearings on the subject of hydraulic fracturing, the DEC unveiled a plan which may allow gas drilling in over 1,200 miles of state forests, according to Frack Action. The organization called for citizen response to the plan at a public hearing in Long Island City.

Asking officials to witness the destruction that gas drilling has wreaked in Pennsylvania state forests, Frack Action demanded that all plans for oil and gas extraction be removed from the New York’s Draft Strategic Plan for Forest Management. “Our state forests should be absolutely off limits to this dangerous and destructive practice,” said Claire Sandberg, co-founder of Frack Action, in a prepared statement.

Sandberg claimed the public comment period on the plan was too short, lasting around one month, and questioned the DEC’s planning.

“These public hearings were announced on very short notice, and hearing dates conflicted with state primaries and two other important hearings related to hydraulic fracturing — an Environmental Protection Agency hearing in Binghamton and a Delaware River Basin Commission hearing,” she said. “Between the lack of notice given and the terrible job of scheduling, it’s been extremely difficult for people who are concerned about this to weigh in.”

According to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, the strategic plan is the first of its kind to apply to all of the state’s forests. He said the plan integrates proven land-management techniques with the most up-to-date research available. “As a result, this plan will provide invaluable guidance for years to come on key issues such as harvesting timber from state forests, strategic planting to ensure diversity of species, protecting soils and protecting forest health against invasive species,” he said.

There are 442 state forests, located in every region of New York. The first state forest, Hewitt State Forest in Cortland County, was purchased by the state in 1929. The most recent acquisition, the Hemlock/Canadice State Forest was purchased in June.

According to the DEC, state forests play a major role in New York’s landscape by allowing for the sustainable use of natural resources, providing watershed protection, serving as a valuable source for the state’s forest products industry and providing hundreds of thousands of annual visitors with access to lands for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, boating, snowmobiling and other activities.

Frack Action claims the DEC’s plan would open up hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land to hydraulic fracturing upstate, with 441 state forests potentially affected.

In August, a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing which would extend until May of 2011 passed a state Senate vote. Gov. David Paterson said he would not allow hydrofracking unless it was proven safe.

The DEC did not return a request for comments regarding hydraulic fracturing in state forests.

Welcome to the discussion.