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The Bureau of Land Management will be auctioning off areas of the Wayne National Forest, viewed here from the Snake Ridge Lookout Tower at the Wayne National Forest Headquarters & Athens Ranger Station on October 31, 2016. (EMMA HOWELLS | PHOTO EDITOR)

Land parcels to be auctioned off at Wayne National Forest in March

More parcels of the Wayne National Forest will be auctioned off in March.

The Bureau of Land Management announced mid-January their intention to auction off more than 1,100 acres of land in the Wayne National Forest to oil and gas companies March 23.

The BLM netted more than $1 million in their first sale Dec. 13. The BLM makes sales of public land quarterly, and more parcels will likely be auctioned in the future, Davida Carnahan, a BLM spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said.

“We do have quite a few more parcels on the Wayne National Forest we will be offering for lease in the future,” she said. “It’s too early to say when the parcels will be scheduled for lease, but there is a lot of interest in that area.”

The March sale, similar to December, will be administered online to “qualified” bidders for oil and gas purposes, Carnahan said. The action could potentially lead to fracking, a process in which pressurized liquid is used to fracture rock and release gas.

The previous sale was met with resistance from local environmental activists, some of whom have filed a 60-day intent to sue the BLM, the National Forest Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Service. The Endangered Species Act requires a 60-day notice to allow for the accused to correct the allegations, Wendy Park, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said.

The intent to sue was filed on Jan. 26 by the Center for Biological Diversity, Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and the Sierra Club under the accusation that the government agencies failed to properly consider the impacts of fracking, white-nose syndrome in the Indiana bat and climate change on endangered species in the forest.

“The agencies have violated their duties to ensure that the species are not jeopardized by this oil and gas and fracking plan,” Park said. “The environmental reviews performed by these agencies did not take into account the impact. … The last review the Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service performed … happened in 2005, which is over a decade ago, before fracking had become an issue.”

The intent of the environmental activism agencies is to void the leases made in December and require the agencies to reassess environmental impacts, Park said.

Carnahan declined to comment on the pending litigation, but she said the BLM will work with concerned citizens.

“We’re trying to be as transparent in our process as possible,” she said. “We are always thinking about ways to make effective outreach to them.”

Some activists, including Caitlyn McDaniel, an Ohio University alumna and Athens resident, said they will continue to resist development in the forest.

“This isn’t something we’re going to accept lightly,” she said. “Many of us are already organizing in our communities, and we’re planning on doing whatever it takes.”


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