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Feds halt forest drilling plans _ for now

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A federal agency has halted plans to auction off mineral rights for shale drilling in a state forest in eastern Ohio after state officials complained they weren't consulted.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management had planned a Dec. 12 public auction to lease 4,525 acres in the Blue Rock State Forest for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. But the plan was put on hold Tuesday after Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials told the agency that they had not approved it.

The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/13m9Uiv ) reports that environmental officials applauded the decision, but the drilling in the Muskingum County forest may still happen.

ODNR spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle says the state agency will now gather information to make sure threats to the forest and wildlife are minimized by any drilling.

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