Sherando Lake Recreation Area in George Washington National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
The Forest Service proposed a ban last year on horizontal drilling, also known as fracking. Their decision will determine how this forest is managed for at least the next decade.
About half of this forest sits atop the Marcellus shale deposit. Horizontal drilling involves pumping huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals thousands of feet underground, and has many concerned about environmental and public health risks.
The one-million-acre George Washington National Forest in Virginia is one of the country's most popular, with over one million visitors each year seeking its hiking, biking, camping, hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
The George Washington National Forest is also the source of drinking water for 4.5 million people living in Virginia and Washington, D.C. Although there hasn't been any evidence of groundwater contamination from fracking in Virginia, nearby states, such as Pennsylvania, and other states where fracking occurs, have recorded cases of concern such as methane-contaminated water from wells near drilling sites. The EPA is still investigating the threats that water pollution from fracking may pose to groundwater and drinking water.
Ten local governments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service, and two major metropolitan water suppliers have expressed concern and issued comments to the Forest Service in support of the originally proposed ban. Over 54,000 written comments were submitted at that time, over 95% in support of the ban. However, comments from those in the oil and gas industry caused the Forest Service to delay a final decision.
While the oil and gas industry and their allies in Congress deny any evidence of the risks that fracking poses, The Wilderness Society continues to advocate for thoughtful conservation of wild lands and forests. National Forests are cherished places for all Americans and should not be turned into natural gas fields!
See how Virginia's National Forests are at risk due to their proximity to shale in the map below, courtesy of the Southern Environmental Law Center: