Sunday, May 3, 2020

Nature: Private group protects land from developers across Ohio

Goldenstar lily at the Arc of Appalachia's Gladys Riley Golden Star Lily Preserve/Jim McCormac

Nature: Private group protects land from developers across Ohio

May 3, 2020

NATURE
Jim McCormac

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore”

— Mark Twain


No. 43. That’s Ohio’s ranking among the 50 states in regard to state and federal land ownership. These lands include wildlife areas, state parks, natural areas, state and national forests and federal wildlife refuges.

Here’s another statistic: 2.59%. That’s the total area of the state taken up by the above lands. Of our neighbors, only Indiana has less public land: 2.28%. By comparison, the state to our north is a conservation paradise. More than 20% of Michigan is protected land, and it ranks No. 15 among the states.

Increased protected land equates to increased biodiversity and healthier ecosystems. As conservationist Aldo Leopold famously said, “To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” This Leopoldism is not possible with land that is gobbled up for development.

Plants drive ecosystems at a base level, and a glance at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ most recent Rare Native Ohio Plants Status List should raise a red flag. One-third of the state’s roughly 1,800 native plant species are listed in some category of peril. Less plant diversity equates to less animal diversity.

We are fortunate to have a private organization that has done an astonishing amount of heavy lifting in increasing Ohio’s protected lands. The Arc of Appalachia was founded in 1995, and since then has acquired 19 preserves totaling nearly 7,000 acres.

True to its name, the “Arc” focuses its work in Ohio’s Appalachian foothills, from Chillicothe in Ross County southwest to Adams County. Its director, Nancy Stranahan, and her staff possess an acute ecological literacy and thus have been able to pluck some of the top natural areas from the path of potential future development.

Their successes are borne out botanically. To date, Arc lands have protected about 700 native plant species — that’s well over one-third of all Ohio’s native species. And that’s on only 7,000 acres, or one-fifth of 1% of the state’s land.

Furthermore, Arc acquisitions have proved a boon for rare-plant conservation. At least 62 state-listed species have been protected, including some of the rarest of the rare.

On March 26, I visited a 186-acre gem of the Arc’s holdings, the Gladys Riley Golden Star Lily Preserve in Scioto County. Its namesake lilies were in peak bloom, in nearly inestimable numbers. There might have been more than 10,000 plants. Goldenstar (Erythronium rostratum) is found in 11 states, and the Ohio population is the northernmost in its range.

Although the beautiful lily might be the totem, the old-growth forest is full of diversity. Scores of interesting animals occur, from box turtles to streamside salamanders to cerulean warblers.

On April 10, I visited an Arc property in Adams County. Its flagship species is the heart-leaved water plantain (Plantago cordata). This robust plantain was once known in 10 Ohio counties but now is found at only three sites. It has declined precipitously in all 15 states in which it occurs, and is among the rarest of the rare.

A three-hour ramble through this property revealed lots of other goodies: newly arrived Henslow’s sparrows, massive Allegheny mound ant nests, flowering papaws and much more. While the plantain was the catalyst for acquisition, a mountain of biodiversity comes along for the ride.

The Arc of Appalachia’s successes places them at the forefront of Ohio’s private conservation organizations. For those interested in helping to protect our dwindling ecosystems, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better cause. See more about the Arc of Appalachia at arcofappalachia.org/.

Naturalist Jim McCormac writes a column for The Dispatch on the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month. He also writes about nature at www.jimmccormac.blogspot.com.

1 comment:

Julie Zickefoose said...

Nancy Stranahan is among my greatest heroes. Not only is she acutely aware (I like your words) if what is out there to conserve and protect, but she is a fine, sensitive and caring human being as well. Tireless, fierce, devoted and kind. Thank you for this profile of The Arc.

Waterscorpion!

As always, click the image to enlarge At the onset of last Monday's aquatic expedition (perhaps more on that later) to Rocky Fork ...