We will not allow fracking in the George Washington National Forest
Please send a letter to your representatives letting them know that we will not accept industries that are exempt from clean air and water protections, and we most certainly, will not accept oil and gas development in the George Washington National Forest.
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Comments submitted on the Draft Plan for George Washington NF
Many Thanks to those of you who submitted the comment letter below to the U.S. Forest Service before the October 17, 2011 deadline. Especially those of you that took time to personalize the message. We hope all our comments will have a positive influence on the final forest management plan. Stay tuned!
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft management plan for the George Washington National Forest (GW).
I strongly support the ban on horizontal drilling in the draft plan. I am concerned though, that oil and gas leasing will be possible on roughly 994,000 acres, or 93% of the forest. The full potential impacts of vertical wells, including hydraulic fracturing that accompanies them, have not been adequately analyzed. Oil and gas leasing should not be allowed in the GW where mineral rights are federally owned.
I appreciate the increased focus on drinking water and water resources in the draft plan. More protective measures are needed though. There should be specific management objectives for watersheds that provide public drinking water. The desired conditions described in the draft plan are too general to be useful. Sedimentation is a major threat to water quality everywhere, including the GW. The draft plan should be revised to require measuring sedimentation in strategic locations and waterways.
Closing roads is a very concrete way to decrease sedimentation while improving aquatic and terrestrial habitat and forest health. I am very glad to see road decommissioning targets in the draft plan but believe the goal of 160 miles during the first decade should be increased.
In addressing climate change, standing forests and soils are more valuable as carbon sinks than as a source of renewable energy. The final plan should not allow harvesting fuel (trees) for biomass incineration, industrial scale wind energy projects, or further gas and oil leases. In particular, “whole tree” harvesting for woody biomass is harmful in many ways and should not be permitted.
Finally, the GW is one of the few places in the eastern U.S. where large areas of undisturbed, mature forest still exist. These forests and the remote settings they provide must be protected. In addition to the public benefits they provide, many wildlife species that need large geographic areas or habitat conditions found here depend upon these special areas.
Prohibiting timber sales and new roads in the 242,000 acres of inventoried roadless areas is a very important step, which I applaud. However, all 372,000 acres identified as potential wilderness areas should be given this protection. Similarly, to protect rare and uncommon species in the GW, all areas recommended for protection by the Virginia Division of Natural Heritage should be assigned to Special Biological Areas or similar designations.
Creating wilderness study areas (WSA) is also an excellent way to protect large, remote forests. The meager recommendations for WSA in the draft plan (20,300 acres) are disappointing. Each of the four areas recommended are important, but should be increased in size. Many other areas of the GW should be WSA, including Laurel Fork, Big Schloss, Beech Lick Knob, and several potential wilderness areas on Shenandoah Mountain.
Thank you for considering my comments.