WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ohio (WTAP) - Update: 9/9/2017 4:15 P.M.
Local and national activists continued their protest Saturday, of plans to drill for oil and natural gas in the Wayne National Forest.
They gathered outside the Wayne forest's Marietta office, holding a protest and rally.
Auctions began earlier this year, with drilling firms bidding for the rights to seek oil and gas in the nearly-quarter of a million acre Southeast Ohio-based forest.
And, in spite of a drilling decline in recent years, opponents say exploration is still going on.
"I just came back from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (in South Dakota)," said Lydia Green of the Sierra Club, "and you can tell that, yes, the oil and gas is in decline, but at the same time, they're still harming our water regardless of how much they frack, or drill oil."
Conservation groups this summer filed suits to prevent the latest online auction, scheduled for later in September.
They say the Rover pipeline caused extensive damage to wetlands in Northeast Ohio.
The protest was attended by activists from West Virginia and Ohio.
Conservation groups have filed an administrative protest challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s plan for a September auction of three parcels in Ohio’s only national forest for oil and gas leasing.
The parcels are adjacent to the Rover Pipeline.
These groups include the Center for Biological Diversity, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Ohio chapter of the Sierra Club and Heartwood.
The protest, filed Monday, claims the BLM has failed to adequately analyze the impact of fracking and pipelines on watersheds, forests and endangered species and its decision to open portions of the Wayne National Forest to fracking.
Construction of the Rover Pipeline, which could transport fracked gas from the Wayne, has been halted because of spills and numerous safety and environmental violations.
Potential fracking could industrialize Ohio’s only national forest with roads, well pads and gas lines.
These groups believe infrastructure would threaten or destroy habitat for threatened and endangered species and damage watersheds and water supplies within and beyond the national forest.