Lawsuit Filed Challenging Fracking in the Wayne

By Myke Luurtsema
In May 2, 2017
On News

Multiple Organizations File Lawsuit Challenging Fracking Plan For Ohio’s Only National Forest


Feds Overlook Danger to Wildlife, Watersheds, and Ohio River

COLUMBUS, Ohio— Conservation groups today sued the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management over plans to permit hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations in Ohio’s only national forest, the Wayne National Forest. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Columbus.

The lawsuit charges that in opening the national forest to large-scale, high-volume fracking industrialization, and in subsequently approving oil and gas leases without addressing impacts to watersheds, public health, climate, and endangered species including the Indiana bat, the agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act..

Additionally, the groups assert fracking would industrialize Ohio’s only national forest with roads, well pads, and gas lines. This infrastructure would increase climate pollution, destroy Indiana bat habitats, and pollute watersheds and water supplies that support endangered mussels and local communities.

The lawsuit challenges a December 2016 BLM auction of over 670 acres of public land in the Wayne National Forest’s Marietta Unit in southeast Ohio, in addition to outdated plans upon which that lease relied. The lawsuit aims to void the leases and halt any fracking in the national forest.

“The Ohio and Little Muskingum rivers provide precious water to millions of people in Ohio and downstream states. Pollution from fracking would be disastrous for the people who use this water. We’re suing to stop this dangerous fracking plan, because drinking water safety and public lands should come before corporate profits,” said Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Many of the parcels sold in the two most recent lease auctions are near or along these rivers.

“We filed this lawsuit because the Wayne is an important natural resource for all Ohioans,” said Nathan Johnson, Public Lands Director for the Ohio Environmental Council. “We won’t let the Wayne be trashed by pipelines and frack pads. The law is on our side, and this public forest is worth fighting for.”

In 2014, a will pad caught fire in Monroe County, resulting in the contamination of a creek near the national forest. Wastewater and fracking chemicals spilled into Opossum Creek — an Ohio River tributary — killing 70,000 fish over a five-mile stretch.

“The Wayne National Forest is already so small and fragmented, but it’s all Ohioans have left, and we will fight like hell to protect it and the waters that run through it,” said Tabitha Tripp with Heartwood.

The groups have also filed an appeal with the Secretary of the Interior to challenge the latest March 2017 lease sale and two 60-day notices of intent to sue the agencies for violating of the Endangered Species Act. Endangered Species Act claims will become ripe in June.

“There’s no escaping the truth about what fracking will do to Wayne National Forest; quite simply, it will destroy it,” said Jen Miller, Ohio Sierra Club Director. “Rather than permitting the destruction of our only national forest, we must continue to fuel the transition to clean, renewable energy which protects our wild places and creates jobs here in Ohio.”

The BLM intends to lease 40,000 acres of the Wayne National Forest’s Marietta Unit,, setting up a full two-thirds of the Unit to be auctioned off in upcoming quarterly BLM lease sales.


Tabitha Tripp, Heartwood, (812) 307-4326,

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414,

Nathan Johnson, Ohio Environmental Council, (614) 487-5841,

Loraine McCosker, Ohio Sierra Club, (740) 590-8474,

Download a copy of today’s complaint here.

Download a map of Wayne National Forest fracking plans here.

Images of the Wayne National Forest are available for media use

Download a factsheet about Wayne National Forest fracking

If you would like to support Heartwood and the Wayne National Forest, please donate to our legal fund. Thank You!