Property owners say drilling leases delayed by bureaucracy
The Wayne National Forest extends through nearly all of Southeastern Ohio. But the forest doesn't completely cover all of the region's counties.
"You have to understand the Wayne National Forest does not own every acre in that green area," said Monroe County resident Janet Conn. "You have to understand that real people live and work and own the property."
Conn is one of numerous landowners who agreed to lease drilling rights in the counties where the forest is located.
But the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has not allowed that drilling to take place, even though there's been an executive order from the Trump Administration to do so.
"There's so many people down there, it's creating pockets of poor people and they can't lease these mineral rights, they can't access them," said property owner and Monroe County Treasurer Taylor Abbott, "because they're being shanghaied by 10% of the acreage that the government owns at this time."
Efforts to lease portions of the areas where the forest is located have run into opposition by environmental groups. A lawsuit was filed in 2017 in Columbus, something the National Association of Property Owners believes is also responsible for the delay.
But industry representatives said drilling was going on long before the forest itself was established.
"For decades, we have been producing oil and gas in this area," says Christie Chavez, President, Southeastern Ohio Oil and Gas Association. "And we have such a great opportunity going forward to continue this development, and bring back economic development for our area."
Another concern to landowners is the different agencies involved.
THE U.S. Forest Service, which oversees the Wayne National Forest, is a division of the Department of Agriculture. The Bureau of Land Management is part of the Department of the Interior.
Landowners met in July with members of Congress to explain their concerns. They plan more meetings in the future.