RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Environmental groups are fearful a new blueprint for the 1.1-million-acre George Washington National Forest will open the largest federally protected forest in the East to a form of natural gas drilling that has spawned its own environmental movement.
The much-anticipated plan outlines the management of the forest, most of which is located in Virginia. The plan is expected to be released in late August or September and guide the forest's use for the next 10 to 15 years.
A 2011 draft of the plan proposed a ban on horizontal drilling for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing to pry the resource from a layer cake of shale.
The proposal was met with an outcry from energy industry heavyweights. They argue the drilling poses no risk to groundwater.