Conservation Report: Shale Gas Extraction Could Leave a Mess for Wildlife

Any sportsman who has followed habitat fights over the years knows this: Fish and wildlife always pay a price for fossil fuel extraction -- and if sportsmen are not involved in setting policies at the front end, disaster will almost surely follow for fishing and hunting.

The latest example is the current rush to riches unleashed across the nation by the revolution in shale gas extraction. The general population sees this as a godsend in supplying a fuel source that is domestic and friendlier to the atmosphere than oil -- and is creating jobs and millionaires in the process.

But the Philadelphia Enquirer recently reported sportsmen in Pennsylvania are finding out that, like most gold rushes, this one can trample their woods and waters. Construction of a trench for a 50-mile gas pipeline in Lycoming County left open to the elements "sent mud sliding down hillsides, fouling a stream." Now, "environmentalists and sportsmen have been raising alarms about the effects on the landscape. They worry about construction mud clogging waters and disrupting fish spawning, and about pipeline rights-of-way cutting swaths through forests, destroying treetop canopies."

Sportsmen's groups like Trout Unlimited, a member of Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development, want to make sure the energy industry respects what will be left behind when the gas and money are gone. Unfortunately, they're finding tough sledding from state and federal lawmakers resistant to regulations that would protect fish, wildlife and recreational values while allowing development to continue.