Seneca Resources recently completed an 8-foot deer fence around nine acres of a 17-acre Marcellus Shale well pad and former impoundment site on Collins Pine Company lands just north of the Elk/McKean County border. This fencing constitutes the first phase of what the Allegheny Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society hopes will become a nirvana of wildlife habitat for all critters in the area.
Like most old impoundment sites, the land had been restored to its original contour by Seneca Resources and revegetated per Department of Environmental Protection guidelines. But, Collins Pine Company, the landowner, and Seneca Resources, the natural gas exploration company, wondered if they could do more for this unique site, sitting at the top of the plateau, and surrounded by Northern Hardwoods forest. Enter the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) and biologist Dr. Linda Ordiway, and a group of dedicated volunteers within the Allegheny Chapter of the RGS.
After several meetings on site and identifying several contractors, a plan was formed. Eight acres of this site contains an active Marcellus shale well pad and access road. But, now that the impoundment had been filled in, the other nine acres of site is available for habitat. Conversations during the several meetings went something like this: How do we screen the well pad and reduce noise levels? Let’s get some quick-growing aspen near the well pad. How do we plant aspen in a site that has been compacted? We need to get a ripper in here to get more oxygen into the soil.
How do we get some hard mast up here for winter food supplies? Well, let’s try and get some chestnut seedlings that are blight free. What about oak? No, this isn’t an oak site; let’s stick with what was here originally. We could plant some American hazelnut shrubs on this entire one side.
What can we plant that will provide soft mast? Apples trees and crabapple trees are proven producers; we could anchor the center of the nine acres with these two trees.
We have a wet area over here; what can we do here? How about planting some high-bush cranberries and blueberries. OK, but, let’s get a variety of blueberries that fruit from mid-summer all the way to late fall. We can put in anywhere from three to five varieties of blueberries so the birds have blueberries to eat all summer into late fall.
Mmm… if we put the chestnuts over here, we really only have enough space to put three to five chestnuts in here – what do we want in the understory of these chestnuts? How about some American mountain ash? Mountain ash trees were prevalent across the Allegheny Plateau before the deer decimated their seedlings. We have the fence coming; let’s try American Mountain Ash.
What can do for pollinators up here on the mountain? We have about a ½ acre over here by the parking area; that would make a good place to install a dry pollinator site of purple coneflower, asters, spotted bee balm, etc. The plan was in place!
But, it does no good to plant expensive trees and shrubs when the deer population is as high as it is up the mountain; enter the cooperative efforts of Seneca Resources in this project. Seneca Resources hired a contractor, at their expense, to construct the fencing around the nine-acre site. With fencing now approaching $3/linear foot to construct, we can all thank Seneca Resources for taking such an interest in our wildlife on Collins Pine Company lands.
Collins Pine Company lands are open to the public for recreation and hunting.
Future plans for this site are to plant all the trees and shrubs identified above in the plan. Stay tuned as this project unfolds!