Support the Ban on Horizontal Drilling (Fracking) in the George Washington National Forest
428 acres of which are located in Monroe County.
This ban is proposed by the Forest Service in their Draft Management Plan which was released for public review in 2011.
URGENT: IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED (please respond by return email before Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 10 pm)
If you would like to support this action, please GO HERE and send us a note with your name and we will add you to our petition of supporters…thank you!
The US Forest Service is in the process of making their final decision on whether or not to allow fracking in the George Washington National Forest, 428 acres of which are located in Monroe County (see map below). Many counties and cities in Virginia have written letters supporting the ban on fracking proposed by the US Forest Service in their Draft Management Plan, released for public review in 2011. (See June 5, 2013 Watchman article below). Nevertheless, recent pressure from the gas industry could cause the Forest Service to withdraw the ban from the Final Management Plan which will govern activity in the forest for the next 15-20 years. While the amount of recoverable gas in this area of the Marcellus may not be significant, the Utica shale which lies under it could contain significant reserves.
SWTO prepared an informational packet for each of our County Commissioners and attended their meeting on Wednesday, June 5th to request that they write a letter to the US Forest Service in support of the ban. It would be helpful for the Commissioners to hear from their constituents.
If you would like to sign the following letter encouraging the County Commission to let the US Forest Service know that Monroe County, WV supports the ban on fracking in the GW National Forest, PLEASE send your response by return email with your full name, place of residence and zipcode. Husbands, wives and children of voting age may sign separately.
Example: Please sign my name – JOHN DOE, Union, 24983
THANK YOU FOR TAKING ACTION!
Letter to the County Commission from the Residents of Monroe County
To the attention of Shane Ashley, Bill Miller and Clyde Gum:
We, the undersigned citizens of Monroe County respectfully urge our County Commission to write a letter to the U.S. Forest Service supporting the ban on horizontal drilling (fracking) in the George Washington National Forest, 428 acres of which are located in Monroe County. This ban is proposed by the Forest Service in their Draft Management Plan which was released for public review in 2011.
A ban on horizontal drilling in the forest will protect drinking water supplies, enable ongoing recreational use of the forest and preserve the forest for future generations.
List of Monroe County Residents
Article in The Watchmen, June 5, 2013
US FOREST SERVICE PROPOSES BAN ON FRACKING IN THE GW NATIONAL FOREST
The beautiful George Washington and Jefferson National Forests combine to form one of the largest areas of public land on the east coast. Together, they cover vast sections of the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky.
The George Washington National Forest alone hosts more than a million visitors each year and is a direct source of drinking water for over 262,000 people including the residents of Monroe County who live in the 71 square mile area located within the West Virginia portion of the James River Watershed. The entire forest is located within the watersheds of the James and Potomac Rivers which together supply drinking water to the 4.5 million people living in northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area.
The US Forest Service is currently in the process of revising the George Washington National Forest Land Management Plan. 428 acres of the GW National Forest are located in Monroe County, approximately 3 miles northeast of Moncove Lake State Park, the county’s recreational haven. The beautiful Cove Creek originates from springs in this pastoral section of the county and winds through the heart of the 428 national forest acres, known as the Cove Creek Wildlife Management Area (see map).
The Forest Service released a Draft Plan for public review and comment in 2011 recommending a ban on fracking (horizontal drilling) in the GW Forest.* Without this ban, the Cove Creek Wildlife Management Area and other sections of the GW National Forest would be open for fracking. A ban of this type would contribute to preserving the integrity of the forest but would not affect shale gas development on private land.
Soon after the release of the Draft Plan, 11 local governments surrounding the GW submitted letters in support of the Forest Service’s proposed ban: Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, and Staunton, and the counties of Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Rockbridge, Rockingham, and Shenandoah. They expressed concerns over fracking in the GW and characterized the decision made by the Forest Service as a well-justified and sensible precaution in light of the documented environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. Additionally, comments supporting the Forest Service’s proposed ban were filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service, and two major metropolitan water suppliers—the Fairfax County Water Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers’ Washington Aqueduct, which supplies Washington, D.C. and Arlington County and Falls Church, VA.**
Bipartisan public opinion has also come out strongly in favor of not opening up the GW to horizontal drilling. Over 95% of the 53,000 people who submitted comments to the Forest Service, support the Forest Service decision to ban horizontal drilling for natural gas in the George Washington National Forest.***
In support of the ban, former USDA Assistant Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Rupert Cutler sent a letter to his successor, the Honorable Harris Sherman, USDA Undersecretary urging him to use his “authority to prevent the opening of the George Washington National Forest to hydro-fracking for the development of natural gas.”****
This summer, the U.S. Forest Service is expected to release the final forest management plan for the GW, which will guide all activity in the over one million-acre forest for the next 15-20 years. Although the Forest Service is aware of the potential threat fracking would pose to public water supplies, fish and wildlife habitat, and the recreational opportunities in the GW, due to pressure from the gas industry, there is a possibility the Forest Service would withdraw the proposed ban on fracking.
The Forest Service listens to the public and was instrumental in keeping the APCO power line out of Monroe County. In a recent phone conversation, US Forest Service Planning Staff Officer Ken Landgraf expressed his keen interest in hearing the opinion of a County Commission in the West Virginia section of the GW National Forest. It is not too late for residents to ask the Monroe County Commission to submit a letter supporting the ban on fracking proposed by the Forest Service. For individual Monroe County residents, there is still time to send public comments and letters to the US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (email@example.com)
Footnotes & References
* To view a summary of the 2011 Draft Forest Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement, please go to: https://fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5323642.pdf To view the entire 2011 Draft Forest Plan, please go to: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5297819.pdf
** To view the letters from cities and counties in Virginia supporting the ban on fracking, go to: http://www.svnva.org/index.cfm/1,135,529,0,html/County-City-Urge-Forest-Officials-to-Protect-Water.
*** Analysis of the 53,000 public comments was compiled by the Shenandoah Valley Network, a Virginia based non-profit organization whose Public and Local Government Comment Analysis (2012)is available at http://www.svnva.org/ass/library/10/svn-gwnf-comment-analysis-2012.pdf.
All the comments are available on the US government website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/gwj/landmanagement/?cid=stelprdb5337589
**** Excerpt from the letter to the Honorable Harris Sherman, USDA Undersecretary, quoted by permission from Rupert Cutler.