State to Lease Parts of Wildlife Areas for Drilling

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission says it has entered into a 5-year, $29.5 million agreement with Chesapeake Energy to explore for natural gas in two state wildlife management areas.

Commission Chairman Freddie Black tells The Associated Press that Chesapeake will be allowed to explore in the Petit Jean River Wildlife Managment Area in Yell County and the Gulf Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Van Buren County.  Black says Chesapeake will be able to explore more than 7,500 acres at Petit Jean and nearly 4,000 acres at Gulf Mountain, both of which sit inside the Fayetteville Shale play.

The agreement also gives the Game and Fish Commission a 20 percent royalty on natural gas pumped from the ground.

Gov. Mike Beebe, who helped raise the state's severance tax on natural gas, was expected to take part in the announcement Monday.  Chesapeake Energy is based in Oklahoma City.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)