The Bureau of Land Management Eastern States announced in January that it will be leasing 345 acres of land in the Marietta Unit of the Wayne National Forest for oil and gas manufacturing. 

Those oil and gas leases could lead to fracking in Ohio’s only national forest. Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — is a process in which pressurized liquid fractures rock to release gas. 

Developers who lease the land have up to 10 years to submit an Application for Permit to Drill, which includes a map, drilling plan and other means of obtaining oil and gas, which could include fracking.

“Leasing the land does not give companies permission to drill,” Greg Fuhs, acting deputy state director of external affairs for the Bureau of Land Management Eastern States, said. “It just gives them the right to apply.”

Job opportunities could be made available if development takes place on the parcels, Chris Rose, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management, said in a previous Post report

Although it may provide jobs in the area, fracking can have severe environmental consequences, Ohio University Environmental Studies Outreach Coordinator Loraine McCosker said. The process impacts the local water system because it uses 5 million to 10 million gallons of water per frack, McCosker, said.

“There are concerns about the enormous amount of water used for fracking,” Wendy Park, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “(Fracking) could dry out animals’ habitats.”

Fracking can also pollute water systems in the Wayne National Forest. There are concerns about the large amounts of hazardous chemicals that are used in the fracking process, Park said. 

“People that depend on water resources and the health of the forest will be affected by fracking operations,” Mathew Roberts, info and outreach director at environmental group UpGrade Ohio, said in a previous Post report. “People are afraid their water could get contaminated.”

Transporting the chemicals used in fracking is also a concern for environmental groups. 

“There’s a massive amount of chemicals being used to produce gas and oil,” Park said. “Transporting chemicals can subject streams to spills, and many of the chemicals being used are toxic.”

The process also can displace endangered animal populations, such as the Indiana bat that resides in Wayne National Forest. The animal can be displaced by infrastructure used for fracking, McCosker said. 

“Ohio is 47th per capita as far as public land goes,” McCosker said. “We live in a time where we realize that public health is having clean air, clean water and places to (be outside). Public land needs to be there for the future.” 

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