No new information on sale of gas leases in Talladega National Forest
by Aziza Jackson
About a month after U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officials announced they were allowing more time for “engagement” with residents about the possibility of fracking in the Talladega National Forest, the date for the information meeting has yet to be announced.

The Forest Service sent out a media release June 8 announcing they “will allow time for additional engagement with key stakeholders, including local communities and residents, regarding pending oil and gas leases in the Talladega National Forest in Alabama.”

Many residents and community leaders were concerned about the effects the natural oil and gas drilling practice of fracking would have on the Talladega National Forest.

The process of fracking involves extracting natural gas and/or oil from shale formations deep in the ground.

Fracking uses a high-pressure mix of sand, water and chemicals to break up rock formations and release trapped gases, allowing them to flow to the surface through a wellborn pipe.

The practice has created a lot of controversy because of the damage it could cause to the forest’s natural habitat, as well as health risks it could create for area residents.

Many Talladega County residents and local nature groups, including Friends of the Talladega National Forest and The Southern Environmental Law Center, have held public information meetings of their own to inform the community about what they feel is taking place.

Some residents said they felt left in the dark about the sale of natural gas leases on 43,000 acres of the Talladega National Forest that was to begin on June 14, nearly a week after the announcement was made.

"The Forest Service works hard to ensure that stakeholders have ample input into the decisions of the agency with regards to the management of the public's national forests," U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said. "Given the importance of this lease sale, we believe it is appropriate to allow for additional public informational meetings."

However, there have been no further details about a meeting since the announcement was made on June 8.

According to Tammy Truett, public affairs staff officer for the Forest Service, specific information regarding the information meeting will be provided to the media and posted on the U.S. Forest Service’s website.

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© 2012