Aerial photo of Buzzardroost Rock trail at Ohio's Edge of Appalachia Preserve System
Buzzardroost Rock Edge of Appalachia Preserve System © David Ike

Stories in Ohio

2021 Highlights: Celebrating Our Successes

Thank you for making 2021 a year filled with conservation victories!

With the help of our supporters, partners and you, The Nature Conservancy is celebrating another enormously successful year. From conservation projects that are helping to recover endangered and threatened species to the continued financial support of our work through monumental legislation, we are thankful for the many ways people have shown up for nature this year!

Map of Ohio showing TNC preserves and projects.
Where We Work A overview of our preserves and projects in Ohio © TNC

Where We Work


Our team is leading conservation on the ground throughout the state of Ohio.

Guided by science, we are protecting forests, restoring streams and wetlands, revitalizing natural areas that support rare and endangered species, and engaging with farmers to balance our need for food with the conservation of nature. We are also conducting research, on our preserves and throughout the Great Lakes, to understand current impacts to communities, fish and wildlife so that we can create a future where people and nature thrive together.

As we work to achieve this vision for the future of Ohio, we also recognize Indigenous peoples as original stewards of this land and respect and appreciate that we build today from their legacy and heritage. 

Importantly, we acknowledge that the lands we are on today are the ancestral homelands of many peoples, including Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of OklahomaCitizen Potawatomi NationDelaware NationDelaware Tribe of IndiansEastern Shawnee Tribe of OklahomaForest County PotawatomiMiami Tribe of OklahomaOttawa Tribe of Oklahoma Peoria Tribe of Indians of OklahomaPokagon Band of PotawatomiPrairie Band Potawatomi NationSeneca-Cayuga Tribe of OklahomaSeneca Nation of IndiansShawnee Tribe, Tonawanda Nation, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and Wyandotte Nation.

Water

11,676 Acres of Wetlands Restored 

As of June 2021, TNC is leading the restoration of 1,733 acres and influencing another 9,943 acres through H2Ohio for a total of 11,676 acres of wetlands and other natural areas restored. An additional 437 acres have been identified as potential future projects.

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Restoration in Action: The Sandhill Crane Wetlands Project

Research shows that just 10 storms per year drive 70 to 90 percent of the nutrient runoff into Lake Erie. When these nutrients end up in our waterways, they can lead to harmful algal blooms that negatively impact people, animals and our economy. Restoring wetlands, floodplains and stream corridors help naturally slow down and treat water, returning nature’s ability to filter and store clean water in the landscape.

Projects like the Sandhill Crane Wetlands restoration in northwest Ohio—an important addition to our Kitty Todd Nature Preserve—further reestablishes and connects the region’s green spaces. Here, 280 acres of frequently flooded, marginal cropland are being restored with emergent marsh, twig-rush wet prairie, oak savanna and sand barren natural communities. They will reduce nutrient runoff into nearby streams and expand and connect habitats that will support an abundance of bird species, including sandhill cranes.

The project is part of our broader plan to restore tens of thousands of acres of wetlands across the Western Lake Erie Basin. 

Lake Erie Lake Whitefish 

To understand factors contributing to the recent decline in the population of lake whitefish, The Nature Conservancy is supporting University of Toledo Ph.D. candidate Zach Amidon’s research, which examines whether larvae lack access to food when they hatch.

Saving the Lake Erie Whitefish (4:03) Through the collaborative research efforts of USGS, ODNR, University of Toledo and The Nature Conservancy, scientists hope to learn what is contributing to the decline in whitefish on Lake Erie.

Amidon is studying their stomach contents to identify which species of zooplankton they consume, and modeling the distribution of larval whitefish in Lake Erie to evaluate how much they overlap with zooplankton. Ultimately, he will assess how zooplankton relate to whitefish survival. This research is the latest in a multi-year effort between TNC and several partners to revive the populations of lake whitefish and other fish species native to the Great Lakes.

Man-made log jam in small stream in forest.
Man-made Log Jam Man-made log jams are designed to mimic the natural accumulation of woody debris and organic material key to capturing soil and nutrients, improving water quality and habitat. © Patricia Tierney

Human Beavers Restore Stream Quality

With just hand tools, materials found on location and sweat equity, conservationists are helping inspire the next generation of land stewards by finding unique ways to restore headwater habitats. Throughout summer 2021, northeast Ohio restoration staff, worked with Cleveland Metroparks and American Conservation Experience (ACE) to design, construct, and install 186 log jams in headwater streams. These log jams are designed to mimic the natural accumulation of woody debris and organic material that are key to capturing soil and nutrients and improving water quality and wildlife habitat downstream.

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Human Beavers: Restoring Streams with Wood Habitat Staff from The Nature Conservancy in Ohio partner with American Conservation Experience and Cleveland Metroparks to help restore the quality and resiliency of the Cuyahoga River watershed by building log jams in headwater streams.

Land

In the 62 years since Dr. E. Lucy Braun led The Nature Conservancy’s first land acquisition effort in Ohio—42 acres in Adams County—we have refined our approach to conserving natural areas. Yet we have stayed true to our core values: we continue to value and invest in acquiring land while taking advantage of new knowledge and tools to protect and restore the natural areas we need and love. 
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Before TNC purchases a piece of land, we follow a methodical process—the same one we’ve followed for over 60 years. Staff wearing binoculars and boots or waders set out to experience a property the best way possible: on foot.

What has shifted is our understanding of how drastically climate change can modify landscapes and threaten the species they support. With this in mind, TNC scientists developed a comprehensive mapping tool. It pinpoints areas of the country, including Ohio, that support high concentrations of plants and animals today and that can best support this biodiversity into the future as climate change alters species distribution and the habitats they need to thrive.

This science has helped identify where protection and restoration is needed most and, in some cases, reemphasized our current protection efforts, such as in the Sunshine Corridor. This diverse forested region connects the Edge of Appalachia Preserve system to Shawnee State Forest and serves as an essential corridor for wildlife. More than 4,600 acres have been secured in the Sunshine Corridor, including nearly 500 acres we added to the total over the past year. 

Thanks to federal legislation like the Great American Outdoors Act and state-based programs like The Clean Ohio Fund, we can conserve land at a scale that wasn’t possible back when Dr. Braun and others first outlined areas of special significance. But no matter how it evolves, successful land conservation will always be a balance of old and new information, and of heart and mind—seeing a property and acknowledging its past while envisioning its future. 

Blazing star borer moth on leaf.
Blazing Star Borer Moth This endangered moth is making a comeback thanks to habitat restoration efforts in the Oak Openings Region. © Dave Cuthrell

Recovery of the Blazing Star Borer Moth

The blazing star borer moth is on the decline. It is listed as endangered in Ohio and is an imperiled species of concern in Michigan. Understanding the interdependent relationship between the moth and its host plant, we asked ourselves a question: Could targeted restoration in the Oak Openings Region support this species’ recovery? Early conservation efforts point to yes! 

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, conservation staff and volunteers have planted four thousand of the moth's host plant, blazing star, and restored 308 acres of habitat. Insect surveys have found numerous blazing star borer moths present on the restoration sites as well as 12 other species of borer moths, reinforcing the point that habitat restoration benefits all.
  

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Climate

Each year brings extreme wildfires, droughts, floods, and rising temperatures and sea levels worldwide, toppling old perceptions that severe natural disasters rarely occur. These ever-changing conditions have forced us to embrace a new reality: climate change impacts are not in the distant future. Adapting to them has become part of our everyday lives. 

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to this global challenge. Addressing climate change demands multiple methods that work together to reduce the severity of future impacts and adapt to the new normal it has already created for people and wildlife. 

Thankfully, cost-effective solutions exist and are already being put to work. By enhancing nature’s ability to store carbon, and through political advocacy and expanding partnerships, The Nature Conservancy is embracing these solutions with vigor. 

Scioto River at sunset and Columbus, OH in background.
City of Columbus Sunset along the Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio © Pixabay

Local Climate Action Leads to Big Impact

While investing in renewable energy is a powerful driver of sustainable economic growth, it is also an investment in our health. 2019 concluded the hottest decade ever recorded. In addition to stressing natural habitats, higher temperatures harm air quality and disproportionately affect people of color, the elderly, and people living in poverty. We continue to advocate for a statewide comprehensive energy policy that includes increased use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind while recognizing that the path to a low-carbon future requires multiple approaches. Along with partners, we advocated for a successful ballot initiative in Columbus last year to develop an energy aggregation program that will provide the city with 100 percent renewable energy by 2022. Its adoption created the largest energy aggregation initiative focusing on renewable energy sources by any city in the Midwest and exemplifies that local action is often an important catalyst for larger-scale impact. These and other examples of local support for renewable energy policy, such as Power a Clean Future Ohio, are part of our advocacy approach to move the needle on clean energy policy in the Ohio General Assembly.

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Looking over the forest at Ohio's Edge of Appalachia.
Edge of Appalachia Forests like those at our Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve System are key to helping sequester carbon and mitigate the impacts of climate change © David Ike

Using Nature to Fight Climate Change

By incorporating nature as a solution to climate change—protecting, restoring and improving the management of our forests, agricultural lands, grasslands and wetlands—we can decrease one third of humans’ global carbon emissions needed to keep global temperature increases under 2˚C and meet the target set by the Paris Climate Agreement. We launched TNC’s Working Woodlands program in Ohio to accelerate forest conservation and maximize carbon storage on more private lands. With more than 20,000 acres under management at the Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve System, acquired piece by piece over the last six decades, we’ve learned firsthand what it means to protect a forest while exploring new models of conservation that can increase the amount of carbon it stores and biodiversity it shelters. Nearly 85 percent of Ohio’s forests are owned by individuals and families, making private landowners essential partners in conservation. Through the program, landowners commit to conserving their forestland long term. In return, they receive a customized forest management plan and access to sustainable forestry and global carbon markets. This model of forest conservation rewards landowners for implementing practices that are also good for the climate. 

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Farmer Brandon Johnson standing in farm field.
Brandon Johnson Farmer Advocate for Conservation © David Ike

Farmer Advocates for Conservation

Producing food is about relationships—between farmers and soil; between crops, water and nutrients; and between farmers and their advisors. But what about between farmers? Influencing the adoption of best management practices at a large scale will require a sustainable farming ethic that moves throughout the agricultural community as organically as water moves across the landscape. Farmers themselves must advocate for their incorporation. 

So we developed and launched an innovative, farmer-led peer-to-peer learning network called Farmer Advocates for Conservation. We created a 36-hour curriculum to train farmers to elevate their soil health and water management practices and then offer outreach and support to their peers. Our first cohort of farmers manages 19,000 acres. They’re leveraging their farmer to farmer relationships to help increase the use of management practices that improve farm operations and reduce nutrient loss and greenhouse gas emissions. 

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People and Nature

People stand in forest near trailhead signage.
Fall Hike Series Hikers meet at Big Darby Creek Headwaters Preserve for a fall hike © David Ike

Fall Hike Series

Conservation and Volunteer Coordinator, Angie Burke, was excited to welcome visitors to TNC's eight open preserves for our 2021 fall hike series. Hikers enjoyed experiencing the many sights and sounds each preserve has to offer, while discovering how our conservation efforts are helping to restore vital habitat, protect water quality and help people and nature thrive.

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Kids harvest seeds from milkweed pods.
Seed Collecting Children help collect and harvest milkweed seed at Big Darby Headwaters. © Christian Tamte

Adopt a Natural Area Program Expands

TNC was thrilled to see our Adopt a Natural Area program grow in 2021. This program is designed to increase capacity for on-the-ground stewardship of critical natural areas in central Ohio while helping connect people to nature through volunteerism. Stewardship activities may include tree planting, seed collection, and invasive plant removal. We are thankful for the many groups who helped us achieve our goals through the Adopt a Natural Area program.

State Director, Bill Stanley, sitting on log outdoors.
TNC Staff Bill Stanley Bill Stanley, State Director, Ohio © David Ike

The Roots of Our Success

Twenty years ago, Ohio became the first chapter to fund conservation efforts outside the state. Today, The Nature Conservancy works in 76 countries and territories and in every U.S. state. It is safe to say we have fully embraced our ability to help each other globally. 

Over the last year alone, our Ohio team and supporters have helped successfully advocate for funding that will conserve lands and waters throughout the nation. We championed climate policy in Washington, accelerated better forest management on tens of thousands of acres in the larger Central Appalachians, and secured funding for a program evaluating the human health benefits of planting trees in Louisville, Kentucky. 

I am also excited to share that TNC identified and secured two properties in the Belize Maya Forest totaling 236,000 acres in December. This project exemplifies TNC’s ability to work in partnership to conserve places that both protect irreplaceable biodiversity and contribute to natural climate solutions. 

So, while I am so pleased by the impact we are having in Ohio, I am equally proud of how our local actions are also improving the future of our planet with your support. Thank you. 

- Bill Stanley, State Director

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A Big Thank You to All of Our Supporters

Thank You for Supporting Nature in 2021 (4:37) Hear from Nature Conservancy staff in Ohio about how you supported nature this year and the many successes we achieved together toward securing a cleaner, healthier future for all.