Allegany State Park is New York's largest State Park. It is located approximately 60 miles south of Buffalo on the border of New York and Pennsylvania. It contains the largest contiguous stand of mature forest, the largest wild area and the largest ancient forest area (old growth) in New York west of the Adirondacks. More than 1.5 million people visit the park annually.
Allegany's expansive stands of mature forest and unique geological characteristics have, historically, made it a target of commercial interests seeking to exploit its natural resources. In 1996, CCE successfully defeated a plan that would have permitted commercial logging on more than 25% of the forested parkland. If approved, the logging proposal would have set a terrible precedent by allowing commercial interests to influence how Allegany and other state parks are utilized. Commercial logging is currently not allowed in any NYS Parks, as per the “Policy on the Management of Trees and Other Vegetation in State Parks and Historic Sites,” enacted by Commissioner Carol Ash on March 9, 2009.
Copyright of the NYS Department of Economic Development
Red House Lake at Allegany State Park
Oil and gas exploitation threaten Allegany
During the logging battle, it became clear that timber wasn't the only natural resource of commercial value within the park. Prior to its designation as a state park in 1921, the area was developed for oil production. Over 200 oil wells were drilled to tap into the petroleum reserves, including the first oil well completed in New York State in 1864. The park was assembled with the state purchasing the surface rights from interests who were unwilling to relinquish their ownership of the potential petroleum reserves beneath the surface. Because mineral rights remained in private ownership, well drilling continued within the park boundaries until the oil companies moved on to more lucrative sites. Although oil production activities have ceased, private mineral interests maintain the ability to resume exploration and production at any time through ownership of subsurface rights.
The impacts of petroleum exploitation in the park could include cutting of mature forest for access roads and well pads, drilling equipment, well pumps, storage tanks, pipelines and transport vehicles. This activity would permanently damage the magnificent character of New York's largest state park. Additionally, drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale has serious potential adverse impacts to water quality, wildlife, and public enjoyment of the park.
The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) estimates that in total, private interests control over 40% of the mineral rights beneath public lands within Allegany State Park. The privately held mineral rights are scattered throughout the park in a patchwork system, thus intensifying the potential for damage to park natural resources such as forests, streams, lakes, wetlands and hillsides if the oil and gas is exploited. In the past, OPRHP has publicly stated its support for the public acquisition of privately held mineral rights from willing sellers at fair market value in order to ensure protection of the park's environment and natural character. CCE strongly supports public acquisition of privately held subsurface rights by utilizing funding sources such as the NYS Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).
In 2008, a company called U.S. Energy Development Corporation claimed to own 3,000 acres of subsurface mineral rights in Allegany State Park and proposed to drill five test wells. Although U.S. Energy has not been able to verify that they legally have claim to these mineral rights, the threat of drilling in Allegany remains.
Master Plan Process Victory!
A master plan is used to guide stewardship of resources at the park and sets forth a long term vision for managing and protecting Allegany. While a process to develop a master plan began in the 1980’s that produced a draft master plan in 1990’s, the draft plan was never finalized or adopted. In July of 2009, OPRHP initiated the process of developing a new master plan from scratch for Allegany State Park with public scoping sessions.
The final master plan released by OPRHP on June 30, 2010, and adopted on July 21, 2010, provides an excellent framework for protecting Allegany State Park for current and future generations. In particular, the plan calls for approximately 83% of the park to be designated as Park Preservation Areas. Park Preservation status will provide Allegany with a high level of legal protection under NYS law making it much more difficult to allow destructive activities such as oil and gas drilling. In addition, the plan designates the entire park as a Natural Heritage Area and Bird Conservation Area, further spotlighting the significance of the wildlife and unique natural resources within the park.
CCE and our partners weighed in heavily during the master plan process, urging OPRHP to provide Allegany with Park Preserve status to ensure that the wilderness in Allegany is kept pristine and intact for current and future generations. CCE wishes to thank our members and our partners in the environmental community that have fought for protection of Allegany for nearly 30 years!
For more information about Allegany State Park, visit:
updated by bsmith 8/2/10