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10 most endangered places in the South

By: Catie Leary on Feb. 14, 2011, 12:36 p.m.
Virginia's George Washington National Forest

Photo: Jim Waite

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George Washington National Forest

Hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — has enabled a boom in natural gas production in many parts of the U.S., and gas companies are now turning toward the Southeast.

Fracking involves multiple toxic chemicals and large water volumes, and operations in other regions have been linked to health and environmental problems ranging from contaminated well water to polluted rivers and streams to the industrialization of rural lands.

This poses a worrisome threat to the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, much of which overlays the Marcellus Shale formation. The U.S. Forest Service soon will decide whether to make portions of this forest available for oil and gas drilling.