The decision made by Wayne National Forest supervisor Anne Carey will allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lease the acreage in seven parcels for underground mining.
Carey said in a release that no significant resources would be impacted if the coal was leased and mined by underground methods.
She said an environmental review found that, due to existing infrastructure, mining activity would not require a surface presence.
The review considered potential impacts to surface resources including water, air, wildlife, plants, heritage resources and recreational opportunities.
After a Forest Service appeal period, the BLM may issue its own decision on whether the coal will be included in a future competitive lease sale.
If the coal was leased by the BLM, it could be mined in the future using a room-and-pillar method, whereby pillars of coal remain after mining is completed to prevent mine collapse.
The project is now subject to a 45-day appeal period.
The federal government owns about 41% of the mineral rights beneath the roughly 240,000 forest acres in southeast Ohio.
The review was implemented following a private company’s request for lease rights from the BLM.