Rebuilding Ohio’s Forests
Three hundred years ago, the land we now call Ohio was ninety-five percent forest, home to species like Red Oak, Pin Oak, Black Walnut, and Swamp White Oak. It was said that Ohio’s forests were so thick that a squirrel could travel from the Ohio River to Lake Erie by hopping from branch to branch through the trees.
In the 1780s, Europeans moved into the region. They weren’t forest dwellers in the same way that the Native Americans were, and instead, they cleared the forests and made way for farming and building settlements. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, by 1900, Ohio’s forests covered only 10% of the state’s land.
Recognizing that something needed to be done, in 1882 the state of Ohio led reforestation efforts and hosted the first American Forestry Congress in Cincinnati. Over the years, this organization helped expand national forests, advocate for nationwide tree planting, create the U.S. Forest Service, and print the first American publication focused on conversation efforts.
The impact of their efforts can be felt today. Today, forests cover 30% of Ohio’s land. This includes over 240,000 acres of the Wayne National Forest, 500,000 acres of land managed by the Ohio Department of National Resources, as well as privately owned acres of forest, which comprises the majority of Ohio’s forests.
The actions of Ohio in the history above are the beginnings of a growing practice in managing our forest land resources.
Sustainable forestry takes a holistic approach, considering the health of trees, wildlife, water, and soil—the entire ecosystem.
When a tree is properly harvested, it allows light to shine through to the ground below allowing room for other species of trees and plants to grow. In turn, the forest benefits from biodiversity when different animals are attracted to the new tree species.
Some foresters take a naturalist approach. Instead of planting trees by hand, they rely on nature for the seedlings to root and grow. Since seedlings can stay viable in the ground for years, they only step in to help recreate a balance for biodiversity.
Healthy and sustainable forests bring a host of benefits. There is a real need for lumber in our daily lives, and sustainable forestry allows for quality, long-term harvests. A strong forest provides the lumber for our homes and furniture, employs the people to build them, and produces the paper to write a banknote. The forestry industry employs thousands of people and these industries have an economic impact of more than $26 billion.
There are many environmental benefits as well. Healthy forests mean that more water is cleaned and retained because tree roots help prevent erosion and pollution within the water. Air is purified as trees naturally take in carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. The large overhead canopy moderates temperatures, and protects wildlife and hikers from the sun, wind, and rain.
While the environmental benefits are important, forests benefit the mind and soul, too. Being in nature has proven to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health.
At Keim, we understand the importance of healthy forests for individuals, the environment, and for business. We try our best to make decisions that support sustainable forestry practices. What we do today will make a difference for future generations. We hope you’ll join us, too.