UPDATE: On Nov 18, 2014, the U.S. Forest Service released the final management plan for the George Washington National Forest which will guide activities on 1.1 million acres of public lands for the next 15 years.

Shenandoah Forum supports the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to protect the integrity of the George Washington National Forest by making all of it off limits for oil and gas drilling, except for land already under gas lease and land subject to private mineral rights.

Listen here for WMRA broadcast on U.S. Forest Service decision
GEORGE WASHINGTON NATIONAL FOREST
With more than 80,000 acres of the forest within Shenandoah County and the source of drinking water for many Shenandoah County residents, planning for future use of the forest land is of particular relevance and importance to our community.
Background
The U.S. Forest Service began the process of revising the 1993 George Washington National Forest Plan in early 2007. 
Five public meetings were held in Virginia, including one in Woodstock. However, planning was put "on hold" in March 2007 when a federal appeals court judge ruled planning regulations established by the U.S. Forest Service were in violation of federal law. Since that ruling, the U.S. Forest Service has completed an Environmental Impact Statement for the new planning regulations. 

On April 21, 2008,  these new regulations were put into place. Despite challenges to these new regulations, the U.S. Forest Service continue to move forward with the revisions for the George Washington National Forest Plan.
.
The new management plan for the forest will guide the activities for the next 15 years, so it is important that U.S. Forest Service officials hear from Shenandoah County residents what they feel is important for the future of our public lands. It is during the planning process the public has the opportunity to comment and give input. The U.S. Forest Service schedules numerous public meetings to receive public input. Comments can also be sent through the mail, by email, phone or faxed. 
The Issue
As the second largest land use guide in the county, it is important that residents of Shenandoah County be involved in the planning process.

The George Washington National Forest is more than a million acres in size, a source of drinking water for thousands of area residents, including many in Shenandoah County, and home to an incredible diversity of wildlife and natural communities. The forest is a tremendous resource that must be managed wisely. Issues such as roadless areas, watershed protection, creation of Special Biological Areas, old growth inventories and protection must be fully addressed.

Key issues we hope the new plan will address include:

  • Identification, management, protection and enhancement of local drinking water resources within the forest.
  • Protection of forested, mountain ridges from private, industrial wind energy development
  • Restriction of Marcellus shale natural gas drilling to preserve ground and surface water resources.

With recent pressure from Congress to change proposed safeguards for drinking water safety, the Forum will strengthen is outreach efforts with our local government and valley partners to ensure adoption of a good managment plan.

Forest Plan Recommendations
Shenandoah Forum supports recommendations endorsed by the Shenandoah Valley Network.