State Natural Resources Director Sean Logan said there is growing legislative interest in drilling in state parks. However, the bill, which was to be introduced by Rep. John P. Hagan (50) Alliance, has met with opposition from environmental groups and members of the Ohio House itself.
Last week, legislative leaders made it clear that they don’t intend to move the controversial industry-backed drilling bill anytime soon.
Beth Ruth, Public Information-Media Relations Coordinator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said the bill is the result of information contained in the Ohio State Park and Recreational Area Study Committee Report presented to the Ohio General Assembly and Administration.
The object of the study was to offer recommendations for future sustainability of state parks.
The committee projects drilling would produce some $3 million a year for Ohio.
Ruth was asked if Shawnee State Forest is under consideration.
“As far as whether Shawnee would be included, there really hasn’t been a proposal or anything that we’ve seen,” Ruth said. “We really haven’t gotten to that level. So we really don’t know if it happens where it would happen or anything along that line.”
The nine-member legislatively-appointed committee was established in June 2008 to examine the status of current and future budget needs of state parks and recreational areas. The group determined that due to steady decreases in the General Revenue Fund (GRF), divisions such as State Parks, Forestry, Natural Areas and Preserves and Soil and Water Conservation which rely on GRF as a primary source of funding, have been significantly impacted. In fact, the Department’s staff is approximately two-thirds the size it was in 1992.
In the report, the committee concludes that it would take approximately $96.5 million a year to sustain operations of State Parks, Forests, Natural Areas and Preserves, Canal Lands as well as the programs and services within Soil and Water Conservation.
Currently, the divisions are operating at a funding level of approximately $70 million. The report concludes that an annual capital allotment of $29.9 million would allow the land-holding divisions considered in the report to eliminate their capital maintenance backlogs within 10 to 20 years.
The report went on to say that in order to provide these divisions with adequate funding, the committee is recommending several short-term and long-term funding options be explored by the Ohio General Assembly and the administration.
Short-term funding solutions include potential revenue from oil and gas development on State Park land that could address a mounting capital maintenance backlog and the report recommends more research and study in the subject.
Frank Lewis may be reached at (740) 353-3101 Ext. 232.