Giant forest protected in SE Ohio

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Got great news today from The Nature Conservancy and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources: A public-private partnership has resulted in the protection of 16,000 acres of forest land about 75 miles southeast of Columbus.

The land is the state's largest remaining block of consolidated forest available for permanent protection. The State expects to complete purchase of the Vinton County property by July 2010 and will manage it as the Vinton Furnace Experimental State Forest.

Full release after the jump...

OHIO’S LARGEST REMAINING UNDEVELOPED FOREST TO BE PRESERVED The Nature Conservancy Assists Private and Public Partners in Purchasing 15,849 acres of forest

COLUMBUS – The Nature Conservancy joins public and private partners in celebrating the announcement of an agreement that will protect nearly 16,000 acres of Ohio’s Appalachian Forest region, including the Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest.

ODNR Director Sean Logan today announced the state’s intent to purchase Ohio’s largest remaining privately-owned block of consolidated forest available for permanent protection. Located 75 miles southeast of Columbus, the forest is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the United States and is home to more than 50 years of ongoing forest research. It provides habitat for bobcats, black bear and a host of migratory birds, including the highest recorded densities of cerulean warblers.

The State expects to complete purchase of the Vinton County property by July 2010 and will manage it as the Vinton Furnace Experimental State Forest.

“The Nature Conservancy in Ohio has been an invaluable partner in the effort to protect the Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest,” said Dave Lytle, state forester and chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. “Not only has the Conservancy raised funds for the purchase, it has helped build broad support for the project within the conservation community. Quite simply, without the Conservancy, we would not be in a position to protect one of Ohio’s great forests.”

More than 70 percent of the negotiated $15.1 million purchase price will come from federal and private funds, including a $1.5 million grant secured by The Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy rallied support from the conservation community for the project, obtaining 16 co-signatories on the grant proposal and 50 letters of support. The grant comes from funds voluntarily set aside by energy companies to compensate for impacts to migratory bird habitat caused by the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Ohio.

"This acquisition saves one of the last great remnants of Appalachian forests left in Ohio," said Josh Knights, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. “The conservation community in Ohio is proud to have contributed to the effort by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to protect this outstanding place for the benefit of all."

The Ohio Division of Forestry has been working with federal agencies and private conservation groups to protect this forest since 2005, when its owner announced plans to sell. As part of a rigorous scientific analysis conducted several years ago, The Nature Conservancy identified the Vinton forest as one of several conservation priorities for forest protection in Ohio.

“Vinton Furnace represents one of the most important forest research and demonstration sites east of the Mississippi River. It is used for sustainable forest management research, for practical training by Ohio’s $15 billion wood industry, and as a popular hunting destination for sportsmen and women from across the state,” said Logan. “This agreement will forever protect this forest, assure that its use serves the public, and that it will remain available as an ecological, recreational and economic resource for all the people of Ohio.”