Sustaining Ohio’s Forests in the Face of Growing Threats
The total area of forest land in Ohio has seemingly stabilized over the last three decades. However, they are going through various changes that affect their characteristics and the benefits they provide, now and into the future. Eighty-five percent of Ohio’s forests are privately owned. An increase in forest landowners and decrease in parcel size is leading to greater forest fragmentation, which can directly impact management and forest benefits like timber production, wildlife habitat, and recreation.
The spread of invasive species further impacts these benefits. The latest statewide forest inventory data also show shifts in species composition and forest structure, with a relative decrease in oak and a strong overall trend of maturing forests. Considering these changes and threats, statewide strategies were developed with an overarching goal of sustaining Ohio’s forests and the many benefits they provide into the future.
Conserving forests through sustainable management across all ownerships
Sustainable forest management across all ownership focuses on maintaining the ecological, economic, and social benefits that forests provide for current and future generations. Most public forest lands in the state already have management plans or guidelines that consider sustainability. However, woodland owner surveys suggest that less than a quarter of family forest owners have received management advice or developed a plan. Increasing sustainable management on family forests is critical, as they represent 70% of Ohio’s forests.
Protecting forests from health threats like insects, disease, invasive species, and fire (or the absence of fire)
Ohio’s forests face many threats from invasive species and other factors like a changing climate and wildfire. Forests provide many benefits and services, and Ohio’s Statewide Strategy outlines several strategies to maintain or enhance those benefits. An important component of such efforts will be to improve communication and awareness about those benefits and services to stakeholders and the public. Examples of noted benefits include forest products, ecosystem services, quality of urban life, and recreational opportunities.
Enhancing forest benefits and services like forest products, wildlife habitat, quality of urban life, recreation, and other ecosystem services
The trend of increasing parcelization and fragmentation in Ohio’s forested areas has multiple effects on forest health, forest productivity, and various forest benefits. Urbanization can also impact other resources, like soil and water quality. Several of Ohio’s statewide strategies address these issues by promoting and protecting working forests, urban tree canopy, and riparian forest areas through various mechanisms, including incentives, easements, and tax reductions. Strategies also support comprehensive land-use planning that considers forest benefits.
Best Management Practices
Ohio’s best management practices (BMPs) program is quasi-regulatory. The agencies responsible for BMPs policy development are the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry, the Ohio Forestry Association, and the Ohio State University Extension.
Click here to view the most recent BMPs recommendations on the state forestry agency website.