Some residents in southeast Ohio took their complaints about the fate of the Wayne National Forest all the way to the nation’s capital.
Parcels of Wayne National Forest, the only national forest in Ohio, is scheduled to be auctioned off for oil and gas purposes Dec. 13. The Bureau of Land Management’s decision could potentially lead to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process of fracking includes injecting pressurized liquid to fracture rock and release gas.
The notice allowed for a 30-day formal protest period which ended Nov. 14. After discovering a petition formed by two “tech-savvy guys” out of Cleveland on Facebook about a month ago, Roxanne Groff and Andrea Reik began to gather signatures.
They have received more than 92,000 signatures on the petition which called for a halt to the auction.
“It’s a beautiful national forest,” Reik, a member of the Athens County Fracking Action Network, said. “To see that it would be disrupted by oil and gas is upsetting. I believe in climate change, I believe we have to reduce our methane in the air.”
On Nov. 14, about a month before the auction is scheduled to take place, Reik and Groff met in Washington, D.C. with the two men from Cleveland and delivered the petition to the Bureau of Land Management.
“We were informed that we would not be able to go into the office and they would meet us with security outside,” Reik said. “That I don’t understand. … (Two officers) told us we were not allowed to go into the BLM offices and they escorted down one of the administrators to hand it off. To me, I was surprised by the response. … I just thought it was interesting that there was a law enforcement response when all we wanted to do was drop off a flash drive.”
Reik and Groff also met with Barbara Eggers, the associate state director of the eastern states offices of the Bureau of Land Management, to hand off the petition. Davida Carnahan, a spokesperson for the bureau, confirmed the petition was delivered and is being included in the official administrative record.
“It’s really a short-term boom and bust industry, but what it leaves behind is a devastated forest and wildlife that’s been disrupted, and contaminated water, and polluted air,” Reik said.
After leaving the offices, Reik and Groff went to Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown’s D.C. offices to express the concerns of some of their constituents.
“It’s one of the many outcries from the public saying that it’s just wrong for the federal government to be promoting the extraction of minerals on public land, especially coal mining and fracking,” Groff, a member of ACFAN, said. “When over 90,000 people weigh in from all over the world (and) not just Ohio, that’s an outcry from all over to say climate change is an issue that must be dealt with.”
Originally published for The Post on November 29, 2016.