I did not attend Dr Margaret Brittingham's 9/19/13 Wellsboro presentation of her preliminary findings concerning the impact of fracking on birds in our forests, but I did arrange for Dave Walczak (firstname.lastname@example.org) to produce an audio recording (Dr Brittingham did not want to be videorecorded). As Dave warned me, the sound quality is not very good; headphones may help.
The audio is available as .mp3 (87 MB) and .wav (191 MB), and there are also some photos Dave took – no captions or navigation.
There is also a 4 MB PDF file containing 41 slides from one of Brittingham's 2011 presentations, which was sent to me by Dick Martin of www.PaForestCoalition.org, along with the cover letter that accompanied it.
COMMENTS ON THE AUDIO
I think this is a fair summary. Brittingham is in the early stages (2nd year?) of a study of three bird “guilds”, that is groups of birds that live in similar habitats.
Synathropic (robin, for example), which associate with people. These have - surprise, surprise – increased around wells.
Early successional (ruffed grouse), which inhabit forest edges. No change. She attributes this to the fact that all reclamation of disturbed areas to date has been grass/clover with no shrubs or young trees.
Forest interior (scarlet tanager), deep forest dwellers. She is concerned to find that these have declined more than she expected.
There are a number of questions I would have asked.
Would she support a moratorium on new permits?
Given that industry plans on a pad per square mile, how much deep forest does she expect we'll end up with? Enough to maintain viable populations of deep forest birds?
Won't shrubs and young trees eventually colonize the newly created forest edges along roads, pipelines, pads and other infrastructure? Won't this lead to an increase in early successional birds, further impacting deep forest birds?
Why did she consistantly refer to conventional wells as “shallow wells”?
Given that she admitted her data would come too late to prevent population declines, how can she say she doesn't want to merely chronical changes? How can her study help?
In answer to a question about frack ponds, she stated that the impoundments in the state forest are for fresh water only. I will simply point out that the impoundment near Antrim, which leaked frack waste near or into Wellsboro's water supply, was also permitted to hold only fresh water.
She also mentioned wanting to start citizen science projects. Personally I would rather see citizens putting their time and effort into demanding justice, which to my mind means stopping fracking. Nevertheless, if I figure out the URL she mentioned, which I couldn't make out, I'll add it above.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS PROMPTED BY DICK MARTIN'S COVER
A baseline is certainly important once one decides to go forward. However, what is more important is a comprehensive harms/benefits analysis of this 10,000+ square mile scam, which I'm confident would show that the beer is not worth the bottle.
What's more, one doesn't need a PhD, or have be an environmental professional, to understand that, if we want real forests, we have to carefully manage disturbance. That is to say, we'd have very limited drilling carried out in waves over a long period of time so that there is always at least a predetermined minimum amount of deep woods.
Why hasn't the harms/benefits analysis been done? Why is gas development in the forests proceeding in a way guaranteed to destroy them? Because this whole undertaking, which benefits a small number of profiteers, is based on unbridled greed rather than good stewardship.
The impact of a pad per square mile seems pretty clear – game over. Anyone who thinks otherwise should explain why. By the way, since we've had logging in our forests for many years, why don't we already know how much undisturbed deep woods it takes to keep it healthy? Don't loggers have to abide by a management plan which maintains an appropriate amount of deep forest? Why should the gas industry do anything less? Because it would be inconvenient for them to wait?
I do not accept the notion that industry should get to do whatever it wants. And I do think we need to hold all those who are facilitating this vast crime to account. We need a moratorium, harms/benefits analysis and a rational way forward that maximizes renewables and minimizes scraping the bottom of the fossil fuel barrel.