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Wayne National Forest Sections Made Available For Lease

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File photo
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Despite strong opposition, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has made roughly 719 acres of Ohio's only national forest available for lease by oil-and-gas drilling companies.

The bureau on Tuesday began accepting bids on 17 government-owned parcels, which represents less than 0.3 percent of the southeast Ohio forest.

A BLM spokesman says the federal agency had initially advertised the auctioning of the leasing rights for approximately twice as much land.

Leases only allow exploration at this time. A lessee would still be required to obtain a permit before any drilling could begin.

Environmental advocates challenged the auction, arguing that fracking threatens public health and local wildlife by polluting the air and water.

Wayne National Forest consists of more than 250,000 acres in the Appalachian foothills.