Hocking Hills – To Log Or To Preserve?

In something of a follow-up to my post about The Wayne being in danger of fracking leases, I am now posting an alert to a danger in the Hocking Hills area.

Hocking Hills is a popular tourist destination, and a total gem to locals.  There is so much here – history, natural beauty, activities such as camping and hiking, and great food culture too.  Unfortunately, some see all that amazing and immediate think it’s something to tear up for profit.

An area of the Hills known as the Spruce Run watershed is under consideration for logging.  This section, near Conkle’s Hollow, is home to rare Hemlocks and boasts gorgeous rock formations.

Luckily, instead of running full steam ahead, the ODF (Ohio Division of Forestry) is also considering preserving it and wants to hear from the public about it.  Comments will be accepted through the end of September.  Together, we can help preserve a natural treasure and keep it recognizable for future generations.

Wayne National Forest: Still Not Safe

Wayne National Forest, or “The Wayne” as it’s called locally, is Ohio’s only national forest.  It covers over 240,000 acres of southeastern Ohio’s Appalachian foothills region.  Home to a special eco-system that includes endangered species, such as the Indiana bat, it’s beautiful and rich with history.  Some have even claimed it to be haunted.

It has also been under threat for some time.

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have seen fit to lease and auction off parts of The Wayne to the oil/gas industry for fracking.

If you’re new to the concept of fracking, it’s the use of highly pressurized liquid to fracture wellbores in deep-rock formations, such as shale.  This is done in the hopes of stimulating the flow of natural oil/gas reserves trapped deep underground, so it can be more easily pumped out.

As you can imagine, there is much debate as to whether or not this is a safe option for fueling our energy needs.  Industry PR proclaims it as wholly safe and an economic boon to whatever area it’s performed in.  They like to paint naysayers as well-meaning but ignorant of the process and its benefits.

Environmental concerns abound, from the polluting of downstream waterways to the increased seismic activity in fracked areas.  Pipelines have burst, wells have caught fire, and major damage to the surrounding landscape has resulted.  Far from just “an ignorant outcry”, these are well documented incidences.

Fracking pollution diagram
Diagram of fracking-related air & water pollution

Despite this, the Forest Service and BLM have willfully ignored the concerns of the public and neglected to perform the assessments necessary to making an informed decision on the matter before opening forest land to leases and auction sales.

Another auction is set for next month, on Sept. 21.

It seems that, as many public groups are guilty of, the dollar signs they saw came before the job they are tasked with performing.  Several environmental groups are suing these agencies for their neglect.

One of these groups, Ohio Environmental Council, is beefing up their formal protest with a webinar on LTE writing.  LTE (or letters to the editor) are not just for opinion pieces.  It can be a very effective tool for activism and is a grassroots method of building awareness and stimulating local action for issues that can affect everybody.  The webinar will take place on Friday Aug. 25 at noon (EST).

If you’re a concerned citizen, there are many ways to affect change, locally or otherwise.

It can be as simple as a donation to a favorite related non-profit or contacting your political representatives.  It can be as complex as regularly attending protests and town hall meetings or becoming an official spokesperson for your cause.  You can be as public or private about it as you’re comfortable with.

The most important thing is to not let complacency take hold.  As the Flower Children were fond of saying, and Nahko sings: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”.