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Fishing, Camping and Drilling? Controversy Surrounds State Park Plan

June 15, 2009

Columbus – Public lands in the Buckeye State would be open to oil and gas drilling under a plan approved by the Ohio Senate. The measure is intended to raise revenues to help with State Parks maintenance, but environmentalists are outraged.

Brandi Whetstone, conservation program coordinator with the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, says the plan is a short-sighted response to long-term budget and energy needs.

"In a way, it's like cutting your nose off to pay for a face lift when they're proposing that we impose development in parks to pay for maintenance."

The plan is part of the state budget bill, which must be finalized by June 30. Whetstone and others feel the drilling plan deserves its own bill and public hearings, so citizens can give their input on what happens to public lands.
Drilling in state forests and wildlife areas is already allowed. But David Maywhoor with the Buckeye Forest Council says the practice is damaging Ohio's landscapes.

"Once the drilling rigs and equipment are taken out of it, the drilling process continues, and we just see the ongoing devastation in the forests. We want to make sure that doesn't happen in our state parks and our nature preserves."

Maywhoor also worries about the effect on tourism.

"When you begin thinking about a drilling rig or a drill sitting in the middle of a park, and how that impacts a grandfather taking grandchildren to the park, you begin seeing people staying away from our parks, and that would have a dramatic impact on the local economy."

Supporters of the measure say the drilling would be done in as environmentally-friendly a way as possible, and the money would only be used to help state parks. Some policymakers say it could raise as much as 20 million dollars for that purpose.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH