The state Game and Fish Commission has a meeting at 2 p.m. today. It’s going to concern a major lease of Game and Fish acreage for gas exploration. Multi-million upfront money, I’m told. Details when released, but the acreage is in wildlife management areas — Petit Jean in Yell County and Gulf Mountain in Van Buren County.

Too bad the Highway Commission doesn’t own a lot of acres in the shale.

Advertisement

Hope somebody asks if the Chinese are going to be in on this slice of Arkansas, too.

Arkansas could do well to look to Texas, where some folks, even those reaping lease money, are taking extraordinary steps to insure land is protected during the exploration. By way of warning: A west Texas rancher’s testimony about the potential danger of gas leaks and water contamination.

Advertisement

UPDATE: At the meeting, Game and Fish rubber-stamped an agreement that has been in the works for a year: A five-year lease to Chesapeake of 4,000 acres in the Gulf Mountain wildlife management area and 7,500 in the Petit Jean WMA. Chesapeake pays the Game and Fish Commission a $29.5 million up-front signing bonus — most of it for Gulf Mountain, presumably because the Petit Jean land isn’t within the Fayetteville Shale — and a 20 percent royalty rate on whatever gas is extracted. Though it is not yet clear how the money will be spent, Game and Fish listed a number of improvement and protection projects it might devote the windfall toward.

The deal will raise questions about environmental impact. The lease with Chesapeake includes two documents geared to meet those concerns: a safe harbor agreement and a so-called best management practices document. The former protects the Speckled Pocketbook Mussel, a species found in the Little Red River. The latter agrement, generated through negotiations with ADEQ, the Oil and Gas Commission, and others, stipulates times of the year, hunting season, for example, that drilling will be forbidden. We’re supposed to receive a copy of this document and will post an update when we do.

Advertisement

State law already stipulates the number of wells and number of site roads allowed. The environmental terms of the lease were negotiated without comment from the public or non-government environmental groups.

Game and Fish commissioners said that there will be an impact on hunters in the area — some hunting spots might be paved over with a well pad, for example.

UPDATE 2: The best management practices document mentioned above provides guidelines for construction, water disposal, and a number of other drilling-related issues. You can find it here.