For those who have ever stalked deer, turkey and bear here in “God’s Country” in north central Pennsylvania, this hunting season is like no other.
For one thing, it is louder. The soundtrack of birds chirping, thorns scraping against a hunter’s brush pants and twigs crunching underfoot is now accompanied by the dull roar of compressor stations and the chugging of big trucks up these hills.
Some of this state’s most prized game lands lie atop the Marcellus Shale, a vast reserve of natural gas. And now more and more drills are piercing the hunting grounds. Nine wells have cropped up on this one game land of roughly 7,000 wooded acres in Potter County, and permits have been issued for 19 more.
An old dirt road that meanders up a ridge here has been widened and fortified. Acres of aspen, maple and cherry trees have been cut. In their place is an industrial encampment of rigs, pipes and water-storage ponds, all to support the extraction of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, a process known as fracking.
“Who wants to go into their deer stand in the predawn darkness and listen to a compressor station?” lamented Bob Volkmar, 63, an environmental scientist who went grouse hunting the other day through these noisy autumnal woods. “It kind of ruins the experience.”
Like many hunters, Mr. Volkmar is upset that the State Game Commission is giving over more public land to the gas companies, which does not exactly fulfill the agency’s mission to enhance the hunting experience. The game lands, as he points out, were bought with the proceeds from licenses and fees paid by hunters and trappers.…