Forests are essential for life on Earth. They shade and shelter us, provide recreation and rejuvenation, and clean our air and water. But, today, our surging global population is accelerating the demand for land, wood and paper products — imperiling the world’s forests with widespread degradation and deforestation.
The Nature Conservancy is working in partnership with governments, corporations, local communities and landowners to conserve and enhance the health of forests in Ohio and around the globe. We preserve core forests and foster responsible management of "working forests" — for timber, jobs and sustainable economies — that provide wildlife habitat, filter fresh water and help stabilize the climate.
Stretching 1,500 miles from Canada to Alabama, the resources of the Appalachians sustain millions of people and provide irreplaceable habitat for any array of wildlife. In Ohio, ancient forests of massive oaks and American chestnut once blanketed nearly all of what would become southern and eastern Ohio. When the first European settlers arrived in the Ohio Valley, wolves and elk wandered this rustic landscape of pristine rivers and fertile forests.
Yet by the early 1900s, 90 percent of the original forest had been cleared to make room for farmland and to feed the iron furnaces of southern Ohio — severely degrading part of North America’s oldest and most biologically diverse forest systems. The 1920s brought the start of a slow recovery — a process that continues today with the help of the Conservancy and our many partners.
Today, nearly 40 percent of Ohio’s Appalachian region is covered in mixed hardwood forest, which harbors more than 62 species of trees, hundreds of herbs and shrubs, countless songbirds and globally imperiled mammals such as the Indiana bat and Allegheny woodrat. As the forests recover, large mammal species such as black bear and bobcat are making a comeback, along with game species like wild turkey.
But habitat fragmentation, ownership patterns and lack of large-scale forest management are current threats to Ohio’s forests. With 95 percent of Ohio’s woodlands in private ownership, forest conservation requires strong relationships with local landowners and communities.
To ensure that future generations of Ohioans will enjoy strong, healthy forests, the Conservancy is working to conserve, restore, and connect large tracts of unbroken forest, which provide higher quality habitat for native plants and animals, enhance water conservation, improve recreational opportunities, are resistant to invasive species, recover more quickly from natural disasters, and are easier to manage.
May 11, 2011