October 2008 Issue
Enjoy Ohio’s stunning fall foliage and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, which has protected nearly 40,000 acres of land in the state.
Lynx Prairie was the first purchase by the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) seems a fitting beginning. In 1959, a group of ecologists, using money mostly donated by Cincinnati garden clubs, invested in this 42-acre parcel, which, five decades later, has expanded into one of the largest privately protected Midwestern landscapes. At the time, the Ohio chapter was a fledgling organization, just 100 members strong and barely a year old. But to its founders, the organization’s mission — to save the last great places on earth — was as clear then as it is today.
Fast forward 50 years, and 42 acres has grown to some 40,000 acres of Ohio land that TNC has protected, nearly 20,000 of which the chapter purchased and later transferred to partner organizations better equipped to manage the property in perpetuity. Internationally, the organization’s protection numbers reach a staggering 117 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers. But despite its global presence, surprisingly few people understand just what The Nature Conservancy is.
“I think a lot of people, even if they’re familiar with us, think we’re just a big group that sweeps in, buys land and puts a fence around it,” says Randy Edwards, senior media relations manager for TNC’s Ohio chapter. “And in the beginning, that was true.”
Edwards says that as the organization grew both locally and nationally, so did its need to expand its conservation strategies. “If you protect a piece of land but it becomes surrounded by development, that’s not compatible with how natural areas function,” he says. “It’s our job to look beyond property boundaries, so that natural ecological functions can work the way they’re supposed to — but we can’t afford to buy every piece.”
Josh Knights, the Ohio chapter’s new state director, agrees. “What we’ve realized is that the clock is ticking, and we can’t achieve our mission one postage-stamp parcel of land at a time,” he says. “I think people sometimes think it’s an either/or situation with civilization and nature,” he says. “We try to honor the connection between the two, and develop new strategies for smart conservation.”
Edwards cites the Big Darby Accord — an agreement to restrict development, reached last spring by 10 jurisdictions surrounding central Ohio’s Big Darby Creek Watershed — and the Clean Ohio Fund (for details, visit www.cleanohio. org) as examples of public policy initiatives that aid “smart conservation.” Additionally, the Conservancy will use methods such as lending technical staff support and lobbying to improve resources available for conservation to achieve its mission.
But while they are often behind the scenes, many of the stunning landscapes that take center stage on a beautiful autumn day –– like Lynx Prairie –– are the direct result of TNC’s conservation efforts.
“When you find yourself out in nature, it’s an opportunity to have life slow down a little bit,” says Knights. “You can’t underestimate the value of taking a walk in the woods –– and we’ll make sure that woods is there for generations to come.”
For more information about The Nature Conservancy and the Ohio chapter of the organization, visit www.nature.org/ohio
Ohio’s Great Places
1. Kitty Todd Preserve
Home to one of the highest concentrations of rare species of any nature preserve in the state, the 750-acre preserve protects part of northwest Ohio’s Oak Openings Region: a post-glacial network of oak savanna and wet prairie much celebrated for its unparalleled collection of rare and wild plants. The preserve’s rare animal species includes the state-endangered lark sparrow and Karner blue butterfly. www.nature.org/kittytodd
2. Putnam Marsh Nature Preserve
Considered one of the last undeveloped, naturally functioning marshes on the southern Lake Erie shoreline, visitors to this 966-acre preserve can enjoy year-round birding thanks to abundant waterfowl, migratory birds and nesting bald eagles. Rare plant species include the endangered Engelmann’s spike-rush and Tuckerman’s panic-grass. www.eriemetroparks.org/Putnam%20Marsh/Home%20PMP.htm
3. Herrick Fen
A fen is a lowland covered wholly or partially with water, and this Portage County site, named for Ohio Chapter founder J. Arthur Herrick, is noted for both its tamarack and cinquefoil-sedge fen communities (tamarack trees are Ohio’s only native conifer that shed their needles each year). The preserve provides habitat for more than two dozen state-listed species including five types of sedges and Ohio goldenrod, and features a boardwalk and nature trails. www.nature.org/herrickfen
4. Morgan Swamp Nature Preserve
Ashtabula County’s Morgan Swamp Nature Preserve is one of the largest privately protected wetlands in Ohio. Part of the 712-square-mile Grand River watershed, it houses a self-sustaining swamp ecosystem and plays a critical role in protecting water quality and maintaining nearby Lake Erie as a freshwater resource. Rare plant and animal species, including painted trillium and bald eagles, thrive in this region, and in recent years the wetland has witnessed the return of the river otter. The preserve features a handicapped-accessible trail with an observation deck overlooking a large beaver pond and interpretive signage showcasing the importance of the ecosystem to both people and wildlife. www.nature.org/morganswamp
5. Dysart Woods
In 1966, the Conservancy transferred 456 acres of Dysart Woods in Belmont County to Ohio University. Dysart is the largest known remnant of the original forest of southeastern Ohio, and one of the only compositions of virgin forest remaining in the state. Today, it functions both as a research lab for Ohio University, as well as a beautiful spot for hiking and nature. The 1.5-mile trail takes visitors past the forest’s many tree species, including its magnificent oaks, some of which date back nearly four centuries and stand 140 feet high. www.plantbio.ohiou.edu/epb/facility/dysart/dysart.htm
6. Big Darby Headwaters
TNC has worked for more than 25 years to protect the clean, cold waters of Big Darby Creek. Last spring, the Conservancy opened the 800-acre Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve in Logan County, giving the public the opportunity to interact with the area’s flora and fauna (including vibrant marsh marigold in warm months) via a handicap-accessible trail and a boardwalk made of recycled plastic and fiberglass, which showcases the origins of this scenic waterway. www.nature.org/bigdarbyheadwaters
7. Beaver Creek Wetlands
TNC aided in the acquisition of 430-plus acres of this incredibly unique wetland complex in Greene County. Most of this land is now part of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Beaver Creek Wildlife Area, including Siebenthaler Fen, a popular spot for nature enthusiasts thanks to the mile-long boardwalk that extends through the wetlands. Listen for frogs and toads, or catch a glimpse of turtles sunning themselves on logs. www.beavercreekwetlands.org
8. The Edge of Appalachia Preserve
This 13,500-acre Adams County preserve is one of the most biologically diverse collections of natural systems in the Midwest. With 100-plus rare plant and animal species, the trail systems are exciting to explore on your own. Be sure to investigate the Edge’s public programs, offered in conjunction with the Cincinnati Museum Center, before you go. www.nature.org/edgeofappalachia
9. Wayne National Forest
TNC has partnered with the Wayne National Forest to protect more than 5,475 acres of one of the country’s oldest and most diverse forest systems. This summer, more than 1,600 acres were added to the Ironton Forest Wildlife Area — a mixture of reclaimed mine sites and young hardwood forest, and home to bobcats, black bear, migratory songbirds and the historic Pioneer Iron Furnace stack. www.fs.fed.us/r9/wayne