Talladega National Forest tops SELC's list of endangered places
by CHRIS NORWOOD
The Southern Environmental Law Center has listed the Talladega National Forest at number one on its fifth annual list of the 10 most endangered spots in the southeast.

“Pressure to allow fracking on 43,000 acres of the Talladega National Forest risks drinking water supplies for downstream communities and would bring industrial operations into beloved camping and hiking areas and sensitive wildlife habitat,” according to a press release announcing the publication of this year’s list.

The other entries are the Metro Atlanta water system; Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina; Courthouse Creek in North Carolina; the Wacamaw River in South Carolina; Goforth Creek Canyon in Tennessee; mountain tops in Virginia and Tennessee; Charlottesville, Va. and Southside, Va.

Although several of the sites on the list are endangered by energy related projects, the Talladega National Forest is the only one on the list threatened by hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” for natural gas. The process involves pumping huge quantities of water mixed with an undisclosed cocktail of chemicals to fracture shale deposits in order to recover natural gas that was previously too deep to reach. The process is extremely controversial, with stories of blighted livestock and flammable tap water emerging from areas where the practice is common.

A lease/sale of mineral rights on 43,000 acres was proposed last year, but after the SELC and other environmental organizations threatened to sue, the proposal was withdrawn.

According to Keith Johnston, managing attorney for the SELC, the U.S. Forest Service was supposed to announce a new proposal regarding the forest sometime after the previous plan was withdrawn in June. The date, time and location of that meeting had not been announced as of Friday afternoon.

Friends of the Talladega National Forest and Don’t Frack The Forest both circulated petitions against the original proposal, and both have Facebook pages.

The Friends of the Talladega National Forest will hold a meeting regarding activities for the coming year Feb. 23 at noon at the Mountain Center in Heflin.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com

© 2013