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Report Highlights Fracking's Threat to Ohio's National Forest

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A 2014 well pad fire in Monroe County occurred not far from Ohio's Wayne National Forest. (FracTracker Alliance)
A 2014 well pad fire in Monroe County occurred not far from Ohio's Wayne National Forest. (FracTracker Alliance)
September 20, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio's Wayne National Forest is among the country's public lands most threatened by fossil fuel interests, according to a new report.

Too Wild to Drill, released Tuesday by The Wilderness Society, examines 15 unique places across the United States that researchers say are at high risk of drilling and mining.

Nathan Johnson, public lands director for the Ohio Environmental Council, says folks trying to enjoy the natural beauty of the forest's 250,000 acres don't want to breathe in toxic air pollution or hear the constant noise of trucking and compressor stations.

"If you've got a family that's playing or fishing in a stream there, the last thing you want folks to worry about is chemicals being in the water, or even chemicals in the fish their son or daughter just caught in the stream," he says. "Those are all really big concerns we don't want to see in the Wayne."

The Ohio Environmental Council and other groups are legally challenging the Bureau of Land Management's recent lease of nearly 2,000 acres of the Wayne National Forest, as well as an oil and gas leasing plan for 40,000 acres of the land.

The BLM contends an environmental assessment found the leasing will not significantly affect the quality of the environment in the area.

Supporters of oil and gas drilling contend it creates economic opportunities. But Johnson says the risks to Ohio's only national forest are just too great. He points to the 2014 Monroe County well-pad fire that occurred near the Wayne National Forest.

"Fortunately, no one died," he adds. "Twenty-five families had to be evacuated; 70,000 fish were killed in a stream. So these threats are not just purely idle or speculative - they're real and they happen, and it's something we really have got to be careful about and aware of."

The report's release comes as federal officials review public land policies, and a 180-day review of regulations that could burden fossil fuel development ends at the end of September.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH