A public opinion poll was recently conducted on attitudes of voters living in the Appalachian shale region toward forest health and natural gas development. Those surveyed live in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. The survey was conducted by a bipartisan research team. Among the findings:
- 54% believe that protecting forests, natural areas, and wildlife habitat should be a higher priority than natural gas development--even if such development would reduce energy costs. Only 40% would place a higher priority on natural gas development.
- 93% believe that oil and gas companies should have to avoid impacts to forests and streams important for hunting, fishing and hiking.
- The vast majority of those surveyed feel that their forests are extremely or very important sources of clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, and job opportunities.
- The vast majority also believe their forests are a national treasure, critical to the local economy, and help protect the health of nearby residents.
- 69% believe that the siting of natural gas wells should be decided by independent scientific experts, not the industry (that's what happens when local residents have seen industry destroy their forests).
According to the pollsters: "The vast majority of Appalachian voters place enormous value on the benefits the region's forests provide, for everything from jobs to clean air and water, and favor taking steps to ensure that shale gas development does not harm forests or water quality."
As I blogged last year, the USGS has documented that natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania forests creates "potentially serious patterns of disturbance on the landscape." Wellpads, roads, pipelines and waste pits are clearcuts in forests that cumulatively are very destructive to the natural ecosystem. Not only forest ecosystems are at risk, but the clean rivers and streams that flow through them. That is why NRDC is working to permanently protect the George Washington National Forest, the watershed for millions of people in the Washington, D.C. area, Maryland and Virginia, from fracking.
Below is a photo of a mountain in West Virginia destroyed by such development; instead, our wild forests should be protected. A majority of residents in the Appalachian region agree. Once these forests are gone, they are gone forever:
Photo used with permission, ©2013 Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan