BLM plan to greenlight drilling in Ohio forest meets resistance

By Heather Richards | 04/09/2024 01:24 PM EDT

Developers and private royalty owners have long pushed for drilling in the Wayne National Forest.

The Upstream Rock Run Coal Mine Remediation Site in Wayne National Forest.

A view of the Upstream Rock Run Coal Mine Remediation Site in Wayne National Forest in Ohio on July 2, 2021. U.S. Forest Service

A Bureau of Land Management plan that could allow drilling in 40,000 acres of the Wayne National Forest in Ohio is catching pushback from environmental groups.

The bureau released a draft environmental analysis in late March of how hydraulic fracturing — a technique that involves injecting water and chemicals underground to shatter rock and release more natural gas or crude oil — would impact the environment in the forest if oil leasing and permitting advanced.

The proposal, first considered during the Obama administration, could open more than 40,000 acres of public land along the Ohio and West Virginia border to oil and gas development. The minerals under those lands have either already been leased to developers or have the potential for development, according to BLM.


BLM first released an environmental review of leasing part of the forest in 2016. The following year, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and the Sierra Club contested BLM’s plan in court, criticizing its analysis of fracking. A judge in 2020 ruled partially in their favor, leading BLM, with the U.S. Forest Service, to do the supplemental analysis released in March looking specifically at how fracking techniques could affect protected animals, water, air quality and other aspects of the environment.