For years, when the price of oil hovered around $14 a barrel, before technical advances in drilling opened up vast reserves of natural gas deep below its surface, the question of how to balance the multiple use paradigm for the Allegheny National Forest wasn't nearly so contentious.
Sure, there were occasional conflicts. There are bound to be when 95 percent of the subsurface rights of a half-million acres of land are owned by someone other than the surface owner.
And that's why the Allegheny National Forest is different than just about any other national forest.
When the federal government acquired what we now know as the ANF there was a serious erosion and runoff problem for the Allegheny River. Haphazard logging over the previous century, when silviculture was still just a theory to grow more trees, rather than an accepted practice; when some hillsides had forests of derricks, the terrain was bleak. And, it threatened municipal water supplies downstream.
Uncle Sam had nothing against the oil industry; he was more worried about the surface, and didn't pursue that which laid beneath.
He would restore the forest, protect the watershed and provide work for thousands of Civilian Conservation Corps workers. The big patch of green on the map of northwest Pennsylvania would, indeed, be green again.
Timbering, this time with much more detailed management, continues. Oil and gas production continues.
But something new came to the forest - tourism and a myriad of outdoor activities.
The dream of multiple use had come about.
Where your own personal position falls on that continuum from no-holds-barred resource extraction to wilderness experience determines where you stand on the never-ending balancing act the U.S. Forest Service is charged with. That balance sometimes shifts a bit one way or the other, but, in the main we believe the Forest Service has been a good steward of our forest.
Oil and gas production hasn't ended; neither has timbering. And, in a couple months the campgrounds will once again be busy with hikers, campers and fishermen. All of those things bring money and jobs into Warren County. Their coexistance is critical to that equation.