Target: Tom Tidwell, Chief of the United States Forest Service
Goal: Demand that the Forest Service reverse its decision to allow fracking in George Washington National Forest
The United States east of the Mississippi River has few substantial public lands. The largest of these is the George Washington National Forest (GWNF), headwaters of the Potomac, James and Shenandoah rivers. Drinking water for millions of people originates within its boundaries, yet the Forest Service recently approved a management plan allowing fracking, mining and other extraction activities there. Environmentalists and city governments alike fear that fracking will poison vital watersheds and degrade the health of the surrounding forest.
Some paint the management plan as a welcome compromise despite these risks. An earlier version would have banned all fracking in the GWNF: a detail energy industry lobbyists fought to change. While the approved plan does prohibit any new leases for oil and gas drilling, thousands of acres already leased can legally become the site of new fracking operations. Think Progress reports that an additional 167,000 acres with current mineral rights claims could also be used for fracking and other resource extraction.
Bruce Baizel, energy program director for Earthworks, an environmental nonprofit, responded in a press release that despite “the health impacts faced by communities living near oil and gas development, this administration continues to promote an ‘all of the above’ energy policy rather than a swift transition to renewable energy.” He went on to say that “the President can protect the climate and public health, or he can continue to promote fracking. He cannot do both.” Ironically, all the drinking water for the nation’s capital comes from watersheds within the GWNF.
Demand that the Forest Service heed the concerns of surrounding cities and water utilities, and reverse its decision to allow fracking in the GWNF.
Dear Mr. Tidwell,
In justifying its decision to allow fracking in the George Washington National Forest, your agency expressed concerns that banning the practice could set a dangerous precedent. Because it is federal policy to allow fracking within national forests, restricting it in the GWNF could inspire similar protections for other public lands. Industry lobbyists rallied against an earlier draft of the plan, which would have banned fracking. And in the end their concerns were given more weight than those of thousands of Americans who submitted public comment, and of the cities and towns whose drinking water originates in the GWNF.
Allowing fracking in this forest ensures short-term profits for a very small number of people, yet it risks the long-term contamination of the water supply for Washington D.C., Richmond, Virginia and other areas. Millions of Americans depend on watersheds in the GWNF everyday, and the dangers posed by fracking are well documented.
Prohibiting new drilling leases is an important step, but it will not protect the forest if you allow fracking on land with existing leases and mineral rights. The health of America’s public lands and watersheds must trump the greed of big oil executives. I insist that the Forest Service reverse its decision to allow fracking in the GWNF.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Brian M. Powell via Wikimedia Commons