Roy Siefert pilots his Chevrolet Blazer over the snow-caked roads of the Tioga State Forest. It's midwinter, and a blanket of snow and cold hangs over this wooded tract in northern Pennsylvania. But in the midst of the maples, ash, and pines is a hub of activity.
Siefert, District Forester for the 165,000-acre Tioga Forest, is checking on a network of pipelines, compressor stations, and gas wells that has transformed a portion of the woodlot into an industrial site. "This is just like a little city," he says.
Exploration of the Marcellus Shale Formation, the nation's largest reserve of natural gas, is transforming the landscape of Pennsylvania. And the venerable Penn's Woods are not immune to development.
So far, 700,000 acres of state forest land are under lease to natural gas companies. Estimates suggest that as many as 12,000 wells will be drilled on state forests over the next 20 years.
The Marcellus Shale Formation runs underneath most of the Keystone State, and so far energy companies have concentrated their activities mostly in the state's northern tier. Industry experts predict that drilling will last for more than 50 years. And along with development on private lands, state-owned property is already seeing its fair share of drilling.
Tioga State Forest has 45,000 acres under lease for gas development, the highest concentration of gas drilling among state forests--so far. For example, in a tract of the Tioga near the college town of Mansfield, the industrial development takes up 185 acres of land. All of this development has …