Bridging the Gap: Connecting Two Protected Forests in Southern Ohio
The Conservancy is creating the largest tract of protected forestland in Ohio's history.
In the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio, in Adams County, lies a stretch of road called Sunshine Ridge. Straddling Stout Run and Scioto Brush Creek watersheds, Sunshine Ridge and the surrounding Appalachian foothills that fan outward from it boast iconic Appalachian forest.
Part of the oldest and most biologically diverse forest system in North America, the landscape is composed of mature oak forest stands rising from prominent ridge tops, shrubby deciduous woods, and grand, vegetated ravines that clean and control the water levels of nearby creeks.
It’s this rich forest habitat that the Conservancy seeks to protect as part of its "Sunshine Corridor" project. The area was selected as a priority for protection not only because of the remarkable biodiversity it harbors, but also because of its strategic location - the 6,000 acres along the corridor link the Conservancy's more than 20,000-acre Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve System with the 63,000-acre Shawnee State Forest, just some 2½ miles away at their closest points.
Linking these two protected areas will create the largest contiguous, protected forestland in Ohio. As of 2019, the Conservancy is over halfway to its goal, with more than 4,000 acres conserved.
Why it's Important
In addition to being key habitat for bear and bobcat, this area is extremely significant for the migration and nesting of many imperiled songbirds including the worm-eating warbler, Acadian flycatcher, Kentucky warbler and scarlet tanager. The rolling Ohio hills support nearly 50 percent of the cerulean warbler's global populations during the breeding season.
Protecting the Sunshine Corridor will also enhance popular recreational opportunities. The Conservancy is partnering with the North Country Scenic Trail and Buckeye Trail Association to route an estimated 14 miles of trail through the Sunshine Corridor and Edge of Appalachia Preserve System. These trails connect people to protected areas across the state and beyond, contributing to the economic, social, and cultural benefits for surrounding communities.
We need to make sure that animals don't get cut off from adjoining habitats, so they can move around in search of food and shelter, and even adjust to temperature increases brought about by climate change.
While much of the Sunshine Corridor currently is sparsely populated, development pressures loom. By patchworking together protected areas, the Conservancy aims to ensure wildlife doesn't get cut off from adjoining habitats, so that they can move around in search of food and shelter, and even adjust to temperature increases brought on by climate change.
In addition to development pressures, unsustainable timber harvesting also is a threat in the region. Properties within the project area contain varying stands of trees. Some show off mature oaks, while others sport mere saplings - the aftermath of a recent lumbering.