Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I support the US Forest Service’s sensible proposal to protect forest resources and drinking water on the George Washington National Forest by prohibiting horizontal drilling on any future federal oil and gas leases in the new Forest Plan.
The Forest Service should stand firm. The well-considered ban, which is intended to limit or prevent high-volume hydraulic fracturing, was supported by the great majority (95 percent) of more than 53,000 public comments, as well as by many local governments adjacent to the Forest.
The proposed ban on horizontal drilling will protect the direct drinking water source for 260,000 local residents and the headwaters of the James and Potomac Rivers which supply water to millions in cities in Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland, safeguard fish and wildlife habitat, and preserve the forest recreation experience for the more than 1 million people who visit the George Washington National Forest each year.
The draft forest plan also proposed to make nearly the entire GW Forest available for vertical gas drilling.
The potential impacts of vertical gas drilling on the GW should be more thoroughly studied, with public input, before a decision is made.
At a minimum, local drinking water supply watersheds, priority watersheds, and other sensitive natural, scenic and recreation areas should be made unavailable to drilling.
Thank you for your support on this critical issue.