The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today conducted a competitive online auction of 1,186 acres of federal minerals in the Wayne National Forest (WNF) that brought a total of $5,196,220.07 — more than doubling what the first WNF mineral auction brought in December.
The December sale of 719 acres in the WNF totaled $1.7 million, meaning the first two sales have brought in over $6.8 million. EID conservatively forecasted today’s sale of acreage from the Marietta Unit — which includes the prolific dry natural gas found in Monroe County — could yield more than $2 million. That forecast proved to be conservative, indeed!
Considering up to 40,000 total acres have been approved for leasing in the Wayne and competitive online auction sales occur quarterly, this is great news for private property owners and especially the schools in Monroe County, as the federal government sends a portion of these funds back to the local communities.
Ahead of the sale today, Wayne National Forest supervisor Tony Scardina penned a tremendous op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch, which outlined the U.S. Forest Service’s commitment to continue oil and gas development in the Wayne National Forest. As Mr. Scardina said,
“As forest supervisor I believe it is important for any discussion of these issues to be based on factual information. This should include why oil and gas development occurs in the Wayne, what the Forest Service does to ensure that appropriate environmental protections are in place, and economic benefits to local communities and the nation resulting from domestic energy production. Throughout the oil- and gas-leasing process, the primary concern of the Wayne National Forest is to ensure that any development meets or exceeds standards for natural resource conservation, and protection of public health and safety. To achieve these important goals, our national forest requires many standards and guidelines for environmental protection. All requirements are based on the best available science, extensive knowledge and experience of our staff and multiple layers of environmental study.” (Emphasis added)
EID has been cataloguing the environmental review process, which has been years in the making, to allow the leasing sale that took place today. We cannot agree more with Mr. Scardina’s statement, and are pleased to see a federal regulator acknowledging the facts of the debate regarding leasing in the Wayne. It is the mandate of the Forest Service to follow federal laws and policy, which includes development on domestic minerals as part of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the Forest Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 and the Energy Policy Act of 2005. As Mr. Scardina went on to say,
“As a federal land-management agency with a multiple-use mission, the Forest Service also must follow current federal laws and policy, which require us to foster and encourage domestic energy production on federal lands. Through this development, local jobs are created and our nation’s dependence on foreign energy is reduced.”
We are also glad to see that the Forest Service acknowledged a key issue that EID has been trumpeting with regard to the fact the Wayne National Forest is unique in that the federal government does not own the majority of the minerals in the forest. In fact, 59 percent of the mineral rights are privately owned. Up until recently, those private mineral owners were being held hostage of seeing their minerals developed. The Forest Service also acknowledges another key point that EID has consistently brought to light — that oil and gas development in the Wayne is not new. In fact, there are 1,200 active wells in the forest.
Lastly, another key statement made by Mr. Scardina is the acknowledgement that oil and natural gas development can occur concurrently with multiple uses of the Wayne, whether it be fishing, hiking, hunting, or camping. This is true, because the Environment Assessment found that there would be “no significant impact” to the forest from fracking.
There is a very stringent process that takes place after leasing occurs to ensure multiple recreational uses of the forest can remain intact and in conjunction with development of subsurface minerals. The forest supervisor is clearly committed to this cause, as Mr. Scardina ended his opinion editorial stating,
“I am confident in our ability to manage multiple uses in the national forest, including oil and gas development, and can ensure that the Wayne National Forest will continue to provide for a broad range of uses for current and future generations.”