Closest to home are parcels surrounding Camp Mac and Lake Chinnabee near Munford and a tract north of Alabama 148 between Sylacauga and Millerville where the Rebecca Mountains run through the Hollins Wildlife Management area.
Local residents are also concerned about how a worse-case scenario might impact recreational opportunities, the environment and water supplies in the area.
The BLM has assured critics that under the National Environmental Policy Act, a series of impact studies will be conducted, public input will be sought, and any company securing a lease will be required to follow rules that will minimize the effect drilling would have on the land and what lives there.
Although the safeguards and regulations — if put in place and adhered to — do seem to promise that any drilling will be conducted as environmentally friendly as possible.
Critics are not satisfied. They feel public notice was inadequate, and they are scrambling to get petitions signed and letters written before the public comment window closes June 1.
The owners of the land — the public — seem to have been kept in the dark while the Bureau of Land Management has proceeded with plans to offer leases for oil and gas exploration and extraction.
Of particular concern is a type of drilling the Southern Environmental Law Center is concerned with, fracking, which involves millions of gallons of water and chemicals being injected underground to fracture shale and release natural gas. The technique has garnered much controversy in recent years due to its supposed harmful effects on ground water in other parts of the country.
Representatives from the law center and the Wild South conservation group plan to speak at a public meeting Monday at 6 p.m. in Talladega at the Ritz Theatre to share information and explain some of their objections to the proposal. It was not clear whether anyone from the government planned to be there to make the case for leasing the land.
Where public land is concerned, at the very least the public should be better informed about plans for its use, and what consequences to expect.