The energy industry said that it welcomes original research, but that it should be seen in context.
The Geological Survey report, said Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, found that oil and gas activity affected less than 1 percent of the forest area in Allegheny and Susquehanna counties.
That number may seem small, but experts say it's a cause for concern, nonetheless.
"As an ecologist, you can look at that and say, wow, there are going to be changes," said Terry Slonecker, the researcher who authored the USGS report, noting it's too early to know where fragmentation has gone too far.There is concern even at the numbers the USGS found, Stutchbury said, noting that without serious reforestation efforts, "we can anticipate really big impacts not just on birds, but all these forest critters." Creighton, of the drilling coalition, said companies are sensitive to the issue. "Well sites and pipeline right of ways are temporary construction projects on mostly private land that will be reclaimed after work is complete," he said. The company KinderMorgan is building a gas pipeline extension in northeastern Pennsylvania that has attracted protests from environmental groups. Spokesman Richard Wheatley said that the company follows the guidance of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for all interstate pipeline projects and that other state and federal agencies can be involved, too. "Once a project is placed in service, companies follow up with additional environmental and safety monitoring/inspection and remediation," Wheatley said in an email. Heatley, the ecologist, said that "not one" of the energy companies drilling in the area has a long-term restoration plan for sensitive deep-forest environments, and that permits usually require only minimal restoration, such as planting grasses. Still, the reality is that modern life demands resources and energy, and even the alternatives â¿¿ such as wind turbines â¿¿ can threaten forests, too.