Ohio Landowners Can Apply for Conservation Easement

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Landowners in 31 northeastern and southeastern Ohio counties who are seeking to protect their woodlands can now apply for participation in a federal conservation easement program that provides a one-time payment in exchange for voluntarily agreeing to permanently maintain property as a working forest.

Applications will be accepted through February 9, for enrollment in the Forest Legacy Program, which is coordinated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and administered in Ohio by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry.

"Sustainably managed forested lands not only help clean Ohio's air and water, they provide income to landowners and help support our state's $15 billion wood industry," said John Dorka, chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. "By enrolling woodlands in the Forest Legacy program, the landowner is able to earn significant income from a property, while at the same time assuring the long term health of a woods."

Landowners who enter the Forest Legacy Program must agree to manage their woodlands according to plans developed in mutual cooperation with the Division of Forestry. If accepted into the program, landowners can get a one-time payment for accepting a conservation easement on the property.

Two regions in Ohio, including six counties in northeast Ohio and 25 counties in eastern and southeast Ohio, have been identified as areas that would best benefit from the Forest Legacy Program. These counties have a relatively large amount of forest cover and a significant number of housing starts. These counties include: Adams, Athens, Ashtabula, Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Gallia, Geauga, Guernsey, Harrison, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lake, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Portage, Ross, Summit, Scioto, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Vinton and Washington counties. Only forested properties within these counties are eligible for the program.

Ohio's forests have increased from just 10 percent of the state’s landscape in the early 1900s to more than a third wooded today. While forest cover remains steady, the number of new forest landowners has increased from 320,000 to nearly 400,000 in the past decade.

"Many of these landowners are buying smaller woodlots that are less than 20 acres in size," said Dorka. "The Forest Legacy Program is an excellent tool for protecting our highest quality forests from the impacts of fragmentation."

Applications for Ohio's Forest Legacy Program are available from the ODNR Division of Forestry at 2045 Morse Road, Building H-1, Columbus, Ohio 43229; or, on the Internet at ohiodnr.com/forestry/landowner/legacy.