BLM to Lease Ohio’s Only National Forest to Fracking Interests

The Bureau of Land Management plans to hold an online auction next month which will grant fossil fuel companies the right to frack Ohio’s only national forest.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) claims to manage public land for the “common good.” However, their actions as a federal agency consistently show that they really serve private interests, particularly those of the fossil fuel industry.

The BLM and their controversial land leasing program lease hundreds of thousands of acres of land that belongs to the collective US citizenry to private interests, who exploit and, in some cases, permanently destroy that land. In the latest example of such “in your face” corruption, the BLM has moved to auction the rights to lease Ohio’s only national forest, which will be bid on by fracking companies.

Following its final environmental assessment of the effects of fracking on Wayne National Forest, the BLM found that “no significant impact” would take place if fracking was allowed to occur in the area. However, the environmental assessment ignored fracking’s threat to drinking water, as well as its effect on air quality and climate. The assessment also fails to consider the cumulative effects of fracking in the forest and the assessment’s findings are based on research that is over 11 years old.

Though many opponents of the BLM’s decision were shocked at the assessment’s inadequacy, this is standard procedure for the BLM, which gains a hefty profit from leasing the public land entrusted to them out to private interests. The BLM is now planning an online auction on December 13th, which will lease the first 1,600 acres of the forest. 40,000 additional acres will be leased in the coming months. The auction will lease the land for the specific use of oil and gas development and the acceptable minimum bid will likely be as low as $2 acre, the great benefit of fossil fuel companies.

Citizens of Ohio have tried to organize against the planned leasing of their only national forest, but with little success. Over 17,000 comments were submitted from Ohio residents to the BLM addressing concerns over the fracking, yet the sale of leasing rights has moved forward.

Some locals have argued that the land leasing violates a 1994 Executive Order (#12898) which deals with environmental justice issues as the BLM clearly ignored the minority Native American population, who live in proximity to the forest as well as the impact on low-income populations in the area. Currently, less than 30 days remain for opponents of the planned, land leasing to file a formal protest against the auction.

An attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council has said that their organization will appeal the BLM’s decision on the grounds that environmental concerns were not adequately considered. There is also a petition backed by over one thousand signatories which seeks to protest the leasing. However, even if the leasing of Ohio’s only national forest is miraculously stopped, the BLM’s disastrous leasing program which benefits private interests will continue at great public expense.

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