The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced it plans to lease another 141 acres of the Wayne National Forest (WNF) in prolific natural gas producing Monroe County on Sept. 21. The scheduled sale comes five years after the Expression of Interest (EOI) to lease the minerals for development began in 2012, which was followed by years of environmental reviews prior to approval from the federal agency to move forward with leasing.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), an extremist “multimillion dollar litigation factory,” quickly protested the upcoming sale using the same debunked talking points that have been addressed again and again during the extensive environmental assessment that was conducted by the BLM. The most recent protest is certainly nothing new, as the out-of-touch extremist group has unsuccessfully protested every successful WNF lease sale to date. Previous sales have yielded nearly $7 million in federal mineral lease auction sales of acreage in the Wayne, of which the state of Ohio will receive 25 percent of the sales. Funding received from the first two sales have been a lifesaver to local schools in Appalachia, as their budgets would have realized extreme cuts in funding if not for this revenue generated by fracking.
Along with CBD, and a handful of other environmental groups — such as the Sierra Club, Athens County Fracking Action Network, Buckeye Environmental Network/Buckeye Forest Council and Heartwood — have recycled a litany of issues raised repeatedly over the past five years. The CBD’s most recent tired arguments are essentially carbon copies of the same issues raised in its recent lawsuit against the BLM and USFS in federal court, which was designed to impose a de facto moratorium on fracking in the Wayne National Forest from the bench.
Of course, in Ohio, developing shale while preserving and protecting our forests, state and federal lands is not new. Fracking has proven to be a win-win for the environment and the economy, with a prime example being the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), where fracking has brought more than $200 million in mineral lease and royalty revenue to the district since 2011. A direct result of leases signed with Utica Shale developers in the eastern portion of the district, the revenue has been used to improve the watershed of this political subdivision of the State of Ohio, proving that conservation and shale development can work hand-in-hand. The WNF is certainly another example of this story, as the initial stages of shale development has come just in time to help offset significant federal funding cuts to schools and infrastructure throughout the Appalachian region of Ohio.