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Anti-fracking activists fighting to protect Ohio's Wayne National Forest as oil and gas industry targets reserves in untouched wilderness

Wayne National Forest

(NaturalNews) The Wayne National Forest (WNF) is located in the hills of southeastern Ohio. It is home to many unique and endangered species including bobcats, Indiana bats, timber rattlesnakes and cerulean warblers. It features over 300 miles of stunning trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Soon, all this splendor may come to an end. Millions of animals could lose their homes, as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its district manager, Dean Gettinger, are about to lease 18,000 acres of the Marietta Unit of the Wayne National Forest for oil and gas development via horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

"It's unconscionable that we could ever permit drilling in Ohio's only national forest," said Jen Miller, Director of Sierra Club Ohio. "This forest is owned by the people for their enjoyment—not for the oil and gas industry to destroy. Permitting fracking will disrupt wildlife, threaten clean water resources, and reduce recreation and tourism. It should and must be preserved for this generation and those to come."

Fight against fracking

The people of the county feel powerless and angry, since the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has sole regulatory authority over oil and gas drilling activities. Public concerns about the negative impact that fracking may have on air quality, water quality, wildlife and climate change have consistently been ignored.

However, area residents and anti-fracking activists, led by the Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN), are not giving up on the forest just yet. The BLM and WNF have failed to inform the people properly and hold a public meeting on the issue, which led to the Athens County Commissioners holding a meeting of their own.

All individuals who wished to speak were given two minutes. Over 20 people voiced their opinions, and 60 people attended the two-hour long meeting. Those who took the floor expressed their concerns about potential fracking impacts on aquifers, groundwater and air quality. They were disappointed that Wayne National Forest Supervisor Tony Scardina was not present to hear their concerns.

Recently, Scardina informed The Athens Messenger that the decision will be made by a regional forester in Milwaukee, in consultation with Scardina, leaving no room for the opinion of the public.

"Well, I think that's bull," Reik said during the hearing. "Now is the time to ask the questions. We don't know where the aquifers are. We don't know where the water is coming from. We need to have these questions answered. And he, as the (Wayne) National Forest Service manager, has an ethical responsibility to know the answers to these questions before he consents."

Environmentalists say that the potentially carcinogenic chemicals used during the process may escape and contaminate ground and drinking water. To avoid cancer-causing heavy metals and toxins like these in your own drinking water, there is only one solution: filter it with an effective gravity water filter.

The public has spoken

Crissa Cummings of Millfield noted that she has sent Scardina peer-reviewed studies that provide evidence of the harmful effects fracking has on the environment and human health. Unfortunately, she hasn't heard back from him.

"We actually have science to back up the fact that fracking is harmful ... just so people know, he (Scardina) is playing with us when he says he doesn't have the power to withhold consent," Cummings said.

According to Athens City Council member Chris Knisely, the city has been trying to protect the water supply and air quality of Athens residents for years. She noted that horizontal hydraulic fracturing uses more water and generates more waste than conventional vertical drilling, and that she was happy to see that so many people had turned up to protect public and environmental health.

"As members of city council, we swear — we take an oath — that says we will protect the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens," Knisely said, adding that the safety of area citizens is "inextricably linked" to the health of Wayne National Forest. "I am glad to see so many people stand strong about this."

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