Wayne National Forest
The Wayne National Forest (WNF) is located entirely within Ohio and is the state’s only national forest. Ohio ranks 7th among the states in population but a mere 47th in public lands (federal and state) available per capita. About 12 million people live within 100 miles of the Wayne.
The Wayne totals 241,191 acres in size. Of this acreage, 41% or 98,858 acres are underlain by federally-owned subsurface. 39% or 38,858 acres of the WNF’s federally-owned subsurface is currently leased with a total of 493 active vertical wells. Privately owned subsurface underlies approximately 59% or 142,258 acres of WNF land. 790 active wells exist on privately owned WNF subsurface.
Endangered species found on the Wayne include the Indiana bat, Running Buffalo Clover, the Sheepnose Mussel, the Rayed Bean Mussel, and the Snuffbox Mussel.
To date, neither the Forest Service nor BLM have conducted any NEPA analysis of high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing on the Wayne. Nevertheless, in late 2011 the Forest Service and BLM proposed leasing approximately 3,200 acres of federal subsurface on the Wayne.
The proposed lease sale was met with unprecedented public outcry for an Eastern forests BLM lease sale. In addition to on-the-ground protests and the submission of countless letters, several local political subdivisions, a water district, and many environmental organizations and concerned citizens filed formal protests with BLM. Most of the proposed acreage lies directly along the Hocking River and the underlying aquifer that serves as the sole source of drinking water for more than 70,000 people in four Ohio counties: Athens, Hocking, Perry, and Morgan. This includes major metropolitan areas like Athens and Nelsonville. According to the City of Athens, the sole-source aquifer is shallow, averaging a maximum of 60 feet below ground level, and is therefore “especially susceptible to pollution from surface level and near-surface level contamination.”
In response to the public’s input, the Wayne’s Supervisor requested the cancellation of the lease sale and BLM obliged.
However, the threat of fracking on the Wayne is still very real. After the 2011 lease sale was cancelled, the Wayne undertook an informal review of new information (RONI) relating to hydrofracking. In August of 2012, the Wayne concluded the RONI process and issued a supplemental information report (SIR) summarizing its findings. The SIR announced that the Wayne does not intend to analyze the impacts of fracking under NEPA prior to future oil & gas lease sales.