Energy Transfer has worked alongside the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) for a number of years, successfully coordinating Mariner East pipeline construction beneath seven State Game Lands and restoring the right-of-way. Beyond construction and restoration, we have also proudly worked with the PGC and other state and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to identify and execute a number of long-term habitat improvement projects on State Game Lands and elsewhere.
These projects have included expanded and improved roadways, creation of a variety of habitats designed specifically for sensitive species, and making donations to worthwhile conservation groups, such as the Indiana Bat Conservation Fund, Ruffed Grouse Society and Trout Unlimited.
“It is important for us to work collaboratively to execute critical infrastructure projects like Mariner East with all of our stakeholders,” said Adam Thomas, Energy Transfer Project Manager. “The PGC has been supportive in accommodating our construction efforts and making PA State Game Lands flourish even more. In return, Energy Transfer is happy to help the PGC in reaching its wildlife management goals.”
Most recently, following right-of-way restoration, Energy Transfer planted special pollinator seed mixes and later installed 153 bee boxes on three State Game Lands in Cambria, Blair and Huntingdon counties. As an effort to increase the population of native bees, the boxes and plantings quickly proved successful in attracting not only a variety of native bees, but a high diversity of butterflies and other insects.
“With this project spanning four different Game Lands within the Southcentral Region, as well as the decline in pollinators, we thought this would be a good project to try and establish pollinator plots to include the bee blocks,” said Chris Skipper, PGC State Game Warden in the Southcentral Region. “We focused on what type of seed mix would best suit each area and increase the diversity along the length of the project.”
The bee boxes resemble bird houses at a quick glance, but they feature many small holes of different sizes to accommodate various bee species. The design, developed out of the Penn State Extension Service, was requested by the PGC for installation on State Game Lands 198, 147 and 118. They were built in a wood shop and installed in April of 2022.
Ryan Ward, Wildlife Biologist with AllStar Ecology, oversaw the construction and installation of the boxes. He explained that they were built for bees that don’t make their own hives, called solitary bees. “They come in and lay eggs in each chamber in the block, fill in with pollen for their pupa to eat, and then seal it off with mud at the end,” Ward explained.
Since the rights of way were already well-established with pollinator plantings, the boxes were utilized almost immediately upon installation.
“I am very happy with the project overall. There were a lot of moving parts, and the coordination among everyone involved was outstanding,” Skipper said. “In the end, I feel we did the best we could for wildlife and will be monitoring the areas to potentially be a model for future projects.”
In some of the same areas as the bee boxes, our environmental team also built massive rock structures to provide roosting habitat for the Eastern small-footed bat, which is listed as a threatened species in Pennsylvania.
“[The bats] use these structures as summer roosting habitat, where they roost in there during the day and come out at night,” explained Brad Schaeffer, Senior Biologist at Tetra Tech. “We worked with the Game Commission to organize where these are located, and we have installed several across the project.”
The structures also provide habitat for the Allegheny woodrat, another state-listed threatened species, as well as timber rattlesnakes and other wildlife.
Tom Boone, the Lead Environmental Inspector overseeing Mariner East restoration on this portion of the pipeline, reflected on the success of these habitat improvement projects. “Seeing the project evolve from bare dirt to full restoration – and the pollinators, the bee boxes, and the different habitats that we’ve been able to provide for wildlife and insects, it’s been a pleasure to be part of this process,” Boone said.