(The Center Square) – The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is hoping outdoor recreation will bring a big payoff.
During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, department officials spoke of their reluctance to lease land for oil and gas development, and admitted that the state has lost a battle with two invasive bugs.
“The lottery ticket we’re trying to cash in for Pennsylvania is the outdoor recreation economy,” Secretary Cindy Dunn said. “It’s bigger than gas, bigger than a lot of industries combined … investing in recreation, investing in conservation is a real winner.”
Yaw was critical of the department for expanding timber sales on DCNR lands, but not doing the same for leasing land for natural gas development.
“You’re sitting on a Mega Million(s) winning lottery ticket and you won’t cash it,” Yaw said. “You have assets that could be used to fund every project you’re talking about, asking the taxpayers to fund – you could fund with assets that you have.”
Dush argued on similar lines, encouraging the department to do more to facilitate off-site gas drilling to generate revenue for local townships.
“It’s an issue that we have an essential disagreement on the purpose of the public land,” Dunn said.
Instead, the department wants to keep its lands as an exception to natural gas development.
“We view state lands as special green spaces for other purposes – watershed, clean water, recreation, outdoors, forest, forest management,” Dunn said. “We see them as unique and special.”
“We’d like to, given the value of the outdoor recreation – it’s a real monster in our economy – we want to have those special places to focus on, she added.
That public land will also have to adjust to the permanent presence of two invasive species: the spotted lanternfly and the lymantria moth, also called the spongy moth or gypsy moth.
“We’re not going to eradicate it,” Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry John Norbeck said. “Much like the spotted lanternfly … we end up having to manage them instead of eradicating them.”
“Unfortunately we do predict a bad year,” Dunn said. “We’re expecting a bad year across parts of the state.”
Last year, the department sprayed more than 209,000 acres in state parks and forest lands, and during the spring, they’ll spray 290,000 acres to reduce lymantria numbers.
“It’s the biggest spray program we’ve had in the history of dealing with lymantria,” Norbeck said. Eastern Pennsylvania, with more lymantria egg masses, will get more attention from the department.
Separately, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will also spray 110,000 acres of game lands.
“We’ll see an outbreak for five, six years, so we plan on doing a robust spray program through probably 2026,” Norbeck said.