A Forest Legacy project in southern Ohio recently resulted in an addition of 929 acres of highly strategic forest land, an area known as the “Little Smokies of Ohio,” to Shawnee State Forest, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
“By acquiring these ‘Little Smokies’ parcels, ODNR continues to show its commitment toward protecting and fostering the growth of Ohio’s forest lands,” said Robert Boyles, Ohio’s state forester. “These additional woodland acres will fill many of the largest gaps in the Shawnee State Forest, and by using proper management, will provide Ohioans with healthy forests, which create ideal habitats for all of our wildlife, offer countless recreational activities and produce the timber products that contribute to our state’s continued economic growth.”
The 63,747-acre Shawnee State Forest includes Ohio’s only state-designated wilderness area and surrounds the 1,168-acre Shawnee State Park. Together, they are the largest contiguous protected forest in Ohio. The project complements partner efforts such as The Nature Conservancy’s plan to connect their nearby 17,123-acre Edge of Appalachia Preserve to Shawnee State Forest through the Sunshine Corridor.
“It’s really satisfying to see the pieces of the puzzle coming together at the Shawnee State Forest as we work to connect it with our Edge of Appalachia Preserve,” said Bill Stanley, assistant Ohio director of The Nature Conservancy. “There was no question that The Nature Conservancy should assist in making this deal a reality. Having this land under ODNR management will allow the forests to mature, increasing their value to water quality and habitat.”
“The Ohio chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is thrilled about helping provide 929 acres of new hunting access. This is a great step forward, and it fits perfectly with our ‘Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.’ initiative,” said Lee Crocker, Ohio regional biologist with the NWTF. “Ohio has a critical need to provide more hunting and outdoor recreation access, and the NWTF volunteers are working hard to accomplish this. These additional acres will create excellent brood and nesting habitat for wild turkeys and will provide important habitat for a whole host of other wildlife species.”
This acquisition is also important for recreation and tourism, as it protects the routes of popular hiking trails (including the North Country National Scenic Trail, American Discovery Trail and the Buckeye Trail) and scenic drives (like the Scenic Scioto Heritage State Byway and Shawnee State Forest’s Driving Tour Loop). Finally, the project supports the Ohio Forest Legacy Program’s core goal of protecting working forests in the most productive counties for timber statewide.
The protection of this important forest land was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, Forest Legacy Program and funding from The Nature Conservancy and NWTF. Other supporting partners include the ODNR divisions of Parks and Wildlife; North Country Trail Association; American Discovery Trail Society; and the Buckeye Trail Association.
The ODNR Division of Forestry works to promote the wise use and sustainable management of Ohio’s public and private woodlands. To learn more about Ohio’s woodlands, visit forestry.ohiodnr.gov.