Ohio plans to expand its 200,000 acres of state forests.
The state will buy 1,200 acres next to Shawnee State Forest through a federal grant as part of the Forest Legacy Program, which since 2005 has protected 8,648 acres of Ohio forest. Shawnee State is already the state’s largest forest, covering more than 63,700 acres in Scioto and Adams counties in southern Ohio.
“The purchase of this forest next to Shawnee State Forest will significantly expand Ohio’s largest contiguous block of forest land, enhancing biodiversity and providing a mix of recreational opportunities,” Ohio Department of Natural Resources director Mary Mertz said in a press release.
The project is in its beginning stages; there is no purchase agreement or a completed appraisal.
The federal grant is to cover up to 75% of the cost of the acquisition, and the state provides 25%, according to Stephanie Leis, a public information officer for ODNR. Federal funding levels are based on federal appraisal standards, so it’s too early to know the costs.
Through a partnership with the department’s Division of Forestry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and landowners, the Forest Legacy Program protects working forests from conversion to non-forest use. A forest is a “working forest” when the land is managed to sustain timber production while also protecting its wildlife, soil, water and other important resources.
In 2015, the ODNR partnered with a different private landowner to obtain 929 acres in the middle of Shawnee State Forest.
“With its close proximity to the 2015 project, this new project represents a highly strategic expansion,” Leis said.
The additional land is close to Shawnee State Park and the Nature Conservancy’s Edge of Appalachia Preserve. The conservancy and the Buckeye Trail Association are among partners expressing support for the project.
“Those partners offered letters of support for the project proposal, but have not provided any financial support and will not manage the property,” Leis said. “The property, if acquired, would become part of Shawnee State Forest and be managed by the ODNR Division of Forestry.”