House Republicans Take Stand against Efforts to Restrict Recreational and Economic Access in Allegheny National Forest
4/1/2009
State Reps. Kathy Rapp (R-Forest/McKean/Warren), Martin Causer
(R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) and Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) are speaking out against attempts to further restrict recreational and economic access in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF). The effort is being spearheaded by the environmental group Friends of the Allegheny Wilderness (FAW).
 
“The three of us have sent a letter to our colleagues in the United States Congress, as well as to the United States Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service, opposing efforts to restrict access to more than 54,000 acres of wilderness space in the forest,” stated Gabler. “In these difficult economic times, any endeavor that is a detriment to jobs and the financial well-being of our region must be stopped.”
 
As a result of the 1964 Wilderness Act, only the U.S. Congress can expand wilderness area.
 
In addition to concerns about the economic impact of an expanded wilderness area, the lawmakers are also concerned about ongoing efforts by the United States Forest Service to scale back development of mineral, oil and gas drilling rights on private property in the ANF. All three representatives sent a letter to Attorney General Tom Corbett stating their concerns about this infringement on private property rights.
 
“The forest is and has been for years a source of income for a number of individual companies, many of them small and, in some cases, family-owned businesses,” Causer said. “Restricting access to the forest, especially at this time, is unwise. We should be doing all that we can to support small and large business endeavors and keep our citizens off of the unemployment line. We are taking a strong stand against additional wilderness and the infringement of private property rights.”
 
According to Rapp, who last year introduced a resolution that was unanimously enacted by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to challenge a proposal put forth by the United States Forest Service to limit the development of private oil and gas rights within Allegheny National Forest, implementing the FAW proposal would also be a clear violation of federal law.   The Weeks Act of 1911 was specifically enacted to keep the federal government from blatantly trespassing on both the private property and day-to-day activities of private entrepreneurs where it has no authority to do so.
 
“In addition to throwing up yet another unnecessary obstacle on Pennsylvania's road to foreign energy independence, current law is crystal clear when it comes to restricting access or the amount of oil, natural gas and other resources that can be produced by non-government employers operating in Allegheny National Forest,” said Rapp. “The Weeks Act clearly prohibits any such interference, and any unwarranted decision taken by any level of government to adopt the FAW plan would set the stage for a lot of outrageously expensive litigation, and worst of all, holds the potential to seriously jeopardize future economic growth and job creation in the rural communities that comprise the Allegheny National Forest area.”
 
Rapp, Causer and Gabler, who are each members of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, stressed that businesses operating in the ANF are already responsible stewards of the environment, exemplified by the “Clean Air” designation that the counties in which the forest sits have received from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
 
“The Allegheny National Forest always has been, and always will be, a multi-use forest,” Gabler added. “It has a history of responsible resource development, and our efforts are simply a continuation of this policy in an attempt to maintain the ANF’s status as a vital asset to the prosperity of northwest Pennsylvania.” 
 
Reps. Martin Causer, Matt Gabler and Kathy Rapp
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Scott B. Little
House Republican Public Relations
(717) 260-6137
slittle@pahousegop.com
Caucus Site: PAHouseGOP.com