Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 10, 2016

Contact:  Kimberly Dawley, #SavetheWayne (740) 919-1349,
Sarah Burkhart, The Eighth Fire,
Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 274-9713,

Dozens Rally at Wayne National Forest to Protest BLM Online Oil and Gas Lease Auction

Water Protectors Hold Prayer Circle in Opposition to Fracking Plans for Ohio’s Only National Forest

NELSONVILLE, Ohio— Native American water protectors joined dozens of Ohio activists Saturday to protest a Bureau of Land Management plan to auction off oil and gas leases in the Wayne National Forest.

Wayne National Forest rally

Demonstrators gather at the entrance to the Wayne National Forest in Nelsonville, Ohio, on Saturday to protest a BLM auction of oil and gas leases on public land in the forest. Photo courtesy Kimberly Dawley. This photo is available for media use.

BLM on Dec. 13 will auction off 1,600 acres of Ohio’s only national forest to private energy companies for oil and gas fracking and drilling that threaten to fragment wildlife habitat and contaminate groundwater and Ohio River and its tributaries with pollution. Protesters gathered at the entrance to the forest for a peaceful “Save the Wayne” rally in which they shared information about the destructive effects of fracking and related infrastructure construction.

"The Wayne lives and breathes. The water in and around it means life.  It is a special place, a national forest, there for the enjoyment of everyone, even creatures. It should not be leased or sold to the highest bidder for virtually what amounts to its destruction,” said Kimberly Dawley of #SavetheWayne. “We are inspired by everyone we see around the country who are speaking out about these issues, particularly at Standing Rock, and are following in their footsteps."

Many of the publicly owned lease parcels are near the Ohio River and its tributaries, which will be at risk of contamination from increased transport of fracking chemicals and wastewater via trucks and pipelines, and runoff pollution from new roads and well pads. Increased injection of fracking wastewaters underground also poses a risk to groundwater in a state with some of the weakest safeguards against toxic wastewater injection.

"This awakening we are seeing across the world as people mobilize in collective action to protect our natural resources, our Earth, and our lives has been outlined by the Native American Prophecy of the Eighth Fire,” said Sarah Burkhart, founder of The Eighth Fire. “We are choosing to be proactive and ensure that this planet is habitable for future generations. Now, the fight is in our own backyard. We come armed in love with faith-filled eyes hungry for change."

“Regardless of who is in the White House, Americans will not stand by while its precious public lands are destroyed for the enrichment of private corporations,” said Valerie Love of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our fight for clean energy, a healthy environment and livable climate will not rest.”


About the Fracking Proposal on the Wayne
BLM’s leasing proposal will open up the Wayne National Forest to large-scale, high-volume fracking of the Marcellus and Utica shale for the first time, and industrialize some of the last remaining public forests in Ohio. Only 14 percent of Ohio’s forests is publicly owned, and the Wayne is Ohio’s only national forest.

New leasing would also threaten imperiled species such as the Indiana bat, Northern long-eared bat and tri-colored bat. These species are already over-stressed by existing habitat fragmentation, white-nose syndrome, and climate change. Habitat destruction, deadly wastewater pits, and water contamination from fracking activities will compound these threats. 

Adjacent landowners are pressuring the Forest Service to open up public land in the Wayne National Forest for hydraulic fracking as that would make their privately owned minerals commercially valuable for oil and gas exploitation. However, doing so would jeopardize publicly owned resources on the adjacent national forest lands. The Bureau of Land Management manages subsurface federal minerals and has the authority to offer public lands for lease to corporations for extraction. But the Forest Service has the ability to deny the leases due to impacts to the national forest.  Community members are urging the National Forest to withdraw their consent to allow these leases to be auctioned.

The Environmental Assessment for the lease auction, however, failed to study the increased surface disturbance, habitat fragmentation, and water pollution impacts of opening up these privately owned areas, and thus fails to fully disclose fracking effects on the Wayne.

Fossil Fuel Extraction on America’s Public Lands
The American public owns nearly 650 million acres of federal public land and more than 1.7 billion acres of Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public land, which make up about a third of the U.S. land area, and oceans like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Seaboard. These places and fossil fuels beneath them are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. An 2015 report by EcoShift consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres of federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry, an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

Last year Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President Obama canceled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying, “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama.

Download Grounded: The Presidents Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground (this report details the legal authorities with which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases).

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels) and The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits (this report details the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands).

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s formal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new offshore fossil fuel leasing.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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