U.S. Forest Service Releases New George Washington National Forest Plan
The U.S. Forest Service today released a new plan for how the George Washington National Forest will be used and managed in the future. Among other things, the plan halts any expansion of dirty fuel leasing and fracking in the forest.
The George Washington is the largest forest on the East Coast and serves not only as a major recreation destination, but an important water source for millions of people. More than 75,000 public comments were submitted in opposition to fracking in the forest, echoing that of local governments, water agencies, the National Park Service and other federal agencies, and Virginia elected officials.
In response Glen Besa, Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter issued the following statement.
“It’s encouraging that the Forest Service listened to 75,000 citizens and decided to protect almost 90 percent of the George Washington National Forest from new gas leasing and fracking, despite tremendous industry pressure to do the opposite. The agency’s decision protects all forest lands in the George Washington that were not already under existing leases or in private mineral ownership.
”The risks of fracking are well documented, from water, air and climate pollution to the industrialization of special places. For the George Washington, fracking could lead to the pollution of the headwaters for drinking water for the region, including Washington, D.C. The large-scale industrial operations and heavy truck traffic that accompany fracking could also damage the scenic beauty so popular with hikers, campers and others who recreate there.
“Unfortunately, these risks remain for the existing leases in the forest. While the leases may be low value, they are certainly high risk. As the closest national forest to metropolitan Washington, D.C., the George Washington provides a unique outdoor experience for millions of people, one that can never be replaced. People don’t come to the George Washington National Forest to hike in an industrial park or to breathe polluted air.
”Dirty fuels and national forests do not belong together. The safest place for dirty fuels like natural gas is in the ground. The Sierra Club is committed to continuing work to keep them there and to protect special places like the George Washington. "
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