Ancient forests of massive oaks and American chestnut once blanketed nearly all of what would become southern and eastern Ohio. When the first white settlers arrived in the Ohio Valley, wolves and elk wandered this rustic landscape of pristine rivers and fertile forests.
Yet by the early 1900s, about 90 percent of the original forest cover 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.
Today, Ohio’s Appalachian forests are returning, with nearly 40 percent of the region cloaked in mixed hardwood forest. The Nature Conservancy’s 20,000-acre Edge of Appalachia Preserve is a key component of this recovery process, mending habitats on a large scale and preserving the landscape’s unique natural legacy.
Current Conservation Work
The Edge of Appalachia Preserve is threatened by the invasion of woody species into prairie openings, as well as unsustainable forestry practices and habitat fragmentation in areas surrounding the preserve. In addition, the unauthorized use of off-road vehicles inside the preserve is disturbing habitat and creating favorable conditions for the establishment of non-native weedy plants, which eventually can displace native vegetation.
The Conservancy has been working to combat these threats through land acquisition, education and restoration efforts.
- Land acquisition focuses on consolidating land holdings and linking critical areas within the preserve system, which consist of eleven contiguous preserves that are owned and managed by both the Conservancy and the Cincinnati Museum Center.
- The Conservancy's Sunshine Corridor Project aims to link the Edge of Appalachia Preserve System with Shawnee State Forest, creating the largest contiguous, protected forestland in Ohio. This will benefit resident and migrating wildlife as well as create more recreational opportunities.
- Land management efforts include restoration of glade communities and prairie openings and addressing timber management issues as they relate to local economic development and neo-tropical migrant birds.
- The Conservancy continues to build partnerships with the local community, and public and private entities to develop innovative approaches to compatible economic development.
- Young scientists are gaining knowledge and skills at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve's Science Camp, which takes place every summer. Here, teens (ages 17-19) have the unique opportunity to assist scientists in the research process.