The Wayne National Forest will update its Land Management Plan following a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The lawsuit, filed last year against the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, said the sale of gas and oil leases under the current Land Management Plan violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.
The Wayne National Forest, Ohio’s only national forest, created its first Land Management Plan in 2006, before Ohio’s fracking boom.
“The current land plan is completely outdated,” said Taylor McKinnon, a representative from the Center for Biological Diversity. “It could not and does not anticipate the effects of fracking in Ohio.”
The Bureau of Land Management began leasing parcels of land in the Wayne in the 11 years since the Land Management Plan was created. Those oil and gas leases are awarded to companies who may use the land for natural gas extraction.
Acquiring the land does not, however, give permission for companies to drill for natural gas. Instead, companies have 10 years to apply to drill on the land, Greg Fuhs, acting deputy state director of external affairs for the Bureau of Land Management Eastern States, said in a .
Gary Chancey, public affairs officer for the Wayne National Forest, said the land plan needed to be updated to reflect how the uses of the forest have changed in the 11 years since the plan's creation.
The Wayne collaborates with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, or ODNR, and Natural Resources Conservation Service to help restore southeast Ohio's oak and hickory tree ecosystem, Chancey said.
“ODNR intends to revise their State Action Plan by 2020," Chancey said in an email. "This presents an opportunity for the Wayne National Forest to revise its Land Management Plan, creating compatible plans that allow the agencies to work together more efficiently.”
McKinnon said the most effective way to update the land plan is to ban fracking completely in the Wayne.
“The Wayne is Ohio’s only national forest, and it’s not a place that should be turned into an industrial ground for the fracking industry,” McKinnon said.
David Miller, deputy communications director at the Ohio Environmental Council, or OEC, said the update is important because the public will have a say in what is done with the forest.
“The Wayne contains some of the finest natural landscapes in Ohio, and the OEC is excited to help protect them for future generations,” Miller said in a . “We look forward to working with the Forest Service and all interested parties to ensure a healthy national forest that all Ohioans can enjoy.”