Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) is taking steps to deal with sliding natural gas prices and the progressively louder sounds of credit being crunched. The company, which is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection, will deal with these probably somewhat temporary maladies by lowering its production rate, selling marginal properties, trimming its drilling program, and spinning off its midstream operations.

Management of the rapidly growing Oklahoma City-based company has hired the energy consulting firm of Jefferies Randall & Dewey to help market stakes it currently holds in properties in Kentucky and West Virginia. Those properties include about 1.5% of Chesapeake's total reserves and production, and they're expected to fetch about $550 million for the company. They will be the first to go in a planned program that the company has put in place to raise about $2 billion through property sales each six months during the next two years.

At the same time, the company will reduce its current production by about 6%, cut drilling expenditures by about 10% for the next two years, and divest its midstream assets into a master limited partnership or other structure. All in all, Chesapeake expects to monetize about $3.5 billion in assets that it believes aren't reflected in its current market valuation.

In the less than two decades since it was founded, Chesapeake has blown past industry leader ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and such other U.S. independent producers Apache (NYSE:APA), Anadarko (NYSE:APC), and Devon (NYSE:DVN) to become the third-largest domestic natural gas producer. In terms of U.S. production, it trails only giants BP (NYSE:BP) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP). When he released results for the company's June quarter, CEO Aubrey McClendon predicted that some time next year the company will move into first place. The company is also in the process of drilling several dozen wells at the Dallas Fort Worth Regional Airport, which rests atop the Fort Worth Barnett Shale, a play management has called the company's most important growth area.

But in the past six weeks, with gas prices sliding and a generalized credit tightening fueling concerns about the company's ability to fund all of its programs, its share price has dropped about 10% to Wednesday's close at $33.89. Tuesday's announced program appears to be a sensible way of dealing with recently changed circumstances.

For instance, the planned property sales clearly involve areas of less importance and promise than, for instance, the Barnett or the Ark-La-Tex, and it's not the role of any producing company to become property pack rats. On the drilling front, I've long been amazed at the scope of Chesapeake's program, so a slight pullback actually could be beneficial. And I won't be saddened to see the midstream separated off. The company's strength has been in finding gas in a concentrated manner, and there seems little to be lost from the spinoff.

All in all, these announced steps seem reflective of a capable and decisive management team that realizes that changing times frequently demand altered approaches.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named above. He does welcome your comments. The Fool's disclosure policy is anything but gas.