Conservation groups sue federal agencies for auctioning off Wayne National Forest parcels

Several conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in the U.S. District Court in Columbus on Tuesday after the federal agencies created plans to permit hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in the Wayne National Forest.

The lawsuit was filed under the accusation that the government agencies failed to properly consider the impacts of fracking on the immediate area.

“We’re suing to stop this dangerous fracking plan because drinking water safety and public lands should come before corporate profits,” Taylor McKinnon, a public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a news release. “Pollution from fracking would be disastrous for the people who depend on this water.”

The intent to sue was first filed in January by the Center for Biological Diversity, Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and the Sierra Club. The lawsuit is in contention of the December sale, and the groups have also filed an appeal for the March sale.

“We filed this lawsuit because the Wayne is an important natural resource for all Ohioans,” Nathan Johnson, public lands director for the Ohio Environmental Council, said in a news release. “We won’t let the Wayne be trashed by pipelines and frack pads. The law is on our side, and this public forest is worth fighting for.”

The BLM netted more than $6 million from Wayne National Forest parcel sales in December and March. More parcels are expected to be auctioned off quarterly, BLM spokeswoman Davida Carnahan said in February.

“We do have quite a few more parcels on the Wayne National Forest we will be offering for lease in the future,” she said. “It’s too early to say when the parcels will be scheduled for lease, but there is a lot of interest in that area.”

Carnahan said the BLM does not comment on pending litigation.

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

Originally published for The Post on May 2, 2017.

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