New plan for George Washington National Forest protects wildlands from future leasing

White Rocks Little Sluice Mountain GWNF

by Aneta Kaluzna - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

New management plans for George Washington National Forest will prohibit new natural gas leases.

Some good news for the Too Wild to Drill George Washington National Forest—the US Forest Service has released their new plan for the forest, and keeping drilling out of essential parts of this wild landscape.

Home to headwater streams that provide clean drinking water for more than 8 million people, including the nation’s capital, this new plan eliminates the possibility of new leasing for drilling in the forest.  

“Thanks to the dedicated work of community leaders that call this area home, this plan delivers real protections for headwater streams in the forest we’ve long said is too wild to drill. While the plan for the forest allows for development of already leased areas, the prohibition on new leasing is good news for everyone that drinks water in Washington, DC or Richmond, Virginia,” said Chase Huntley, senior legislative director for The Wilderness Society. “This situation shows the importance of open planning processes that engage communities, businesses, and other stakeholders.”

The plan allows drilling on more than 10,000 acres that have already been leased within the forest, while prohibiting further leasing on the remaining 1.8 million acres of forest land. An additional 167,000 acres of mineral rights (the natural gas found below the surface) are also still available to drill, but must be drilled from adjacent private lands, not in parts of the National Forest. Currently, none of the existing leases are being developed.

In addition to being a critical source of drinking water, the George Washington National Forest is a popular spot for hikers and anglers from national capital region. The forest is home to more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails and has eight designated Wilderness areas.