George Washington National Forest (VA)
Protecting our Precious Public Lands
SELC Launches Website on How to Protect the GW against Fracking Risk
The U.S. Forest Service is expected to announce in early 2014 whether to open Virginia’s George Washington National Forest to natural gas drilling and the riskiest, most destructive form of fracking.
It's not too late to make your voice heard. SELC has launched a website, protectthegw.org - watch our slidehow, learn how you can take action to help protect this important resource, and share this link.
The largest national forest in the east, the 1.1 million-acre George Washington National Forest in western Virginia and West Virginia has been a favorite destination for generations of outdoor enthusiasts, from hikers and campers to hunters and horsemen. These public lands are also a haven for wildlife such as black bear, songbirds, native brook trout and many other species, and are the source of clean drinking water and economic benefit for dozens of communities.
A New Plan for the National Forest
The George Washington National Forest (GW) is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which is in the process of revising the long-term management plan for the forest. This plan, to be released likely in early 2014, will guide virtually all activity in the forest for at least the next decade. Despite the extraordinary environmental, economic, and recreational role the GW plays in our region, the Forest Service is currently weighing whether to open these public lands to horizontal gas drilling.
Prohibiting horizontal drilling in the GW would curb high-volume hydraulic fracturing— “fracking”—to extract natural gas from shale deposits under the forest. Fracking is a risky form of drilling that entails injecting huge volumes of water and chemicals into the ground in order to crack the shale and release natural gas trapped in its fissures. Fracking also involves intensive industrialization of land, to include drilling pads, containment ponds, storage tanks, roads and heavy truck traffic, and more. Such activity in the GW could impact public water supplies, the forest’s fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation treasures and experiences in the GW. One of the country’s most popular national forests is absolutely the wrong place for drilling and fracking. See our website and handout on the risks of fracking in the National Forest
Among other important values, the GW is a direct source of local drinking water for over 260,000 people living in and around the Shenandoah Valley, and the forest is in the watershed of the James and Potomac Rivers, which supply drinking water to about 4.5 million people in cities further downstream, including Richmond, Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area.
We are also urging the Forest Service to further study, with public participation, the draft plan’s proposal to allow vertical drilling, because vertical wells are usually fracked and also could seriously impact water quality and other national forest values. At a minimum, natural, scenic and recreational areas should be protected from any drilling.
Coalition Protects the Forest for the Future
SELC and our local, regional, and national partner groups are working to persuade the Forest Service to put stronger environmental protections in place for the GW. Our vision for the future of the GW includes clean water, thriving fish and wildlife populations and ample, healthy habitat, old-growth forests and prime recreation spots, including remote, wild backcountry areas.