Overview It is important that the development of oil, gas and minerals in Westmoreland County be done in a manner that protects the county’s lands and waters, particularly our high value ecological and recreational places. It is essential that government entities, conservation organizations, industry, and the public collaborate to effectively balance energy needs with the protection of our ecologically significant areas, recreational land, and water and wildlife habitats in the county.
Given the recent acceleration of natural gas development in the county, the Westmoreland Land Trust supports careful scientific assessment to determine overall and cumulative impacts to forests, significant habitats, rare species, water quality and quantity, and to gauge the threat of invasive species. This information will inform the development of the most effective best management practices for any future development of oil, gas and minerals in the county.
Westmoreland Land Trust Policies In keeping with its conservation mission, the Westmoreland Land Trust will adhere to the following policies.
- The Westmoreland Land Trust will not enter into any agreement for the development of oil, gas and minerals connected to the conservation lands it owns that will impact the surface of those properties. On a case by case basis, the land trust will consider agreements that allow for subsurface extraction of minerals (such has horizontal drilling for gas). When the Westmoreland Land Trust sells conservation properties to private buyers, it will permanently restrict development of oil, gas, and mineral rights in a manner that will permanently protect the surface of the property.
- The Westmoreland Land Trust focuses on protecting high conservation value lands and lands of regional and local importance in Westmoreland County, both through purchases and gifts, including gifts of conservation easements. Westmoreland Land Trust recognizes that many properties it may wish to permanently protect already have gas rights leased or severed, just as other mineral and property interests may have been Also, some property owners may be unwilling to convey those rights to the land trust. As opportunities arise to protect properties, Westmoreland Land Trust will evaluate the potential and actual impacts on each property from all oil, gas and mineral rights to determine whether and how the property’s conservation values can be protected. When possible, gas and other rights will be acquired by the land trust or limited by agreement with the property owners or the owners of the gas and other rights.
- The Westmoreland Land Trust may transfer some of the conservation lands it acquires to state or local government entities or land management the land trust will protect those properties by reserving oil, gas and mineral rights or other methods when appropriate, particularly when the land trust contributes its own funds toward the purchase of the properties. Because every property and transaction is unique, Westmoreland Land Trust will work closely with the government entities or agencies to negotiate protections for each property.
- Westmoreland Land Trust does not typically endorse or oppose individual projects in order to use its resources on broader conservation issues and to focus on conserving exceptional The land trust focuses on issues that are sufficiently broad in scope and potential impact to advance the organization’s conservation goals.
Implementation of Best Management Practices
As oil, gas and minerals are developed in the Commonwealth, the Westmoreland Land Trust supports the development and implementation of and adherence to “best management practices” for the siting and development of infrastructure on all private and public lands to avoid and minimize adverse impacts to our forests, waterways, wetlands. To safeguard our natural resources in the event that surface disturbance cannot be prevented, best management practices should include the following.
- Scientific assessment and use of data from the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program and a comprehensive conservation pre-planning process to guide siting, development, and restoration, in which all sensitive ecological areas are identified and mapped to support avoidance or minimization of long-term impacts not only from drilling activities, but also from wellsite development activities such as timber harvesting and site grading.
- Monitoring of sensitive species in pre- and post-construction phases to understand potential negative impacts to ecologically sensitive, high value conservation areas from habitat fragmentation, changes to water quality and quantity, and to prescribe restoration
- Restoration of areas that were needed for development but are not needed during the operational life of the development For example, early development activity for shale gas extraction, including well pad development and associated infrastructure, often results in greater soil and canopy disturbance than is needed for long-term operation.
- Implementation of restoration measures that return the natural character to the site to restore habitat for plant and animal species, protect water quality and reduce stormwater runoff, including: use of native vegetation to screen long-term infrastructure and reestablish forest canopy and native shrub and herbaceous vegetation; soil grading; and control of non-native invasive
Adopted by the Westmoreland Land Trust Board of Directors on July 17, 2015.
The mission of the Westmoreland Land Trust is to conserve and steward lands and waters of Westmoreland County that harbor ecological, scenic or recreational qualities to offer a healthier and more sustainable future for all.