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Ohio's forests are under threat: Here's how you can help

Hemlock at Beaver Creek
Hemlock trees grow in a mixed forest in Beaver Creek State Park in Ohio. Photo by Sara Welch.

Portage SWCD worked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry and the Kent Roosevelt High School Forestry and Landscape Management team on April 25 to remove Callery pears in Phillips Park in Franklin Township.

To mark the 75th anniversary, students also planted a native Ohio tree provided by ODNR. Portage County received and planted a sycamore tree. Removing invasive species AND planting native trees – that means doubling conservation.

Ohio's Forestry Industry

Forest products have an annual economic impact of $30 billion in Ohio. Ohio's forests also produce some of the finest hardwoods in the world. So it stands to reason that Ohio would also produce high-quality wood products. Ohio is number one in the United States for producing high-quality furniture.

Ohio's forests also provide much of the state's wildlife habitat. Hunting, fishing, watercraft and parks together contribute another $12 billion annually to Ohio's economic impact. It's easy to make a connection between wildlife habitat and hunting. But forests also contribute to cleaner, cooler water, which improves fishing and other water activities.

Threats

Ohio's forests face many threats. Invasive plant species pose a major challenge to forest management. Invasive insect species such as the emerald ash borer, which decimated our native ash tree population, are changing forest composition.

Other pests such as the Asian longhorned beetle are constantly on guard as we try to keep them at bay. Many invasive exotic insects have been introduced unintentionally through international trade. Both EAB and ALB are believed to have arrived on pallets or other wooden packaging. However, some invasive species (both plants and animals) are the result of our aesthetic preference for non-native plants.

Non-native bush honeysuckles, burning bush and barberries are just a few of the many invasive plant species that inhibit the regeneration of native hardwood species in Ohio. Each of these species was intentionally brought to the United States via horticulture as ornamental plants for the home landscape.

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is another non-native forest pest. HWA came to the United States on a Japanese hemlock in the early 1900s, at a time when there were no international controls. Again, it was our aesthetic preference for a non-native species that is now leading to the devastating loss of our native hemlock.

When to seek help

Foresters and resource experts provide a variety of valuable support to landowners. However, there are several critical moments when forest owners should seek professional help. Seek help if you see a threat to your wooded area.

Most threats to Ohio's forests also have a management strategy to help landowners protect their forests. Best management practices are developed by resource experts through field-tested trials. A forester or resource expert can quickly guide you to the right course of action.

If you are a forest owner, you should pay particular attention to oak wilt. Oak wilt can be controlled, but it is an aggressive disease that can destroy your oak trees before you even notice it. Don't let this disease sneak up on you. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has some excellent information to help identify oak wilt. Seek professional help if you think you have oak wilt in your wooded area.

The most important time to ask a forester for help is when planning a timber harvest. Poorly managed timber harvests pose one of the greatest preventable threats to Ohio's forests.

Poorly managed timber harvesting can lead to significant soil erosion and water pollution; a large number of scarred and damaged trees; reduced diversity and loss of your forest's most commercially valuable trees; suppressed regeneration of commercially valuable or rare tree species; rapid spread of invasive exotic plant species; Reducing habitat for wildlife species of concern such as amphibians, reptiles and songbirds and a forest more vulnerable to disturbances related to pathogens and diseases.

For more information about planning a timber harvest, contact the ODNR Division of Forestry's Call Before You Cut program before signing a contract with a timber buyer. For more information, visit callb4ucut.com/ohio/.

Many SWCD offices also have staff who can connect landowners with resource experts. The Ohio Society of American Foresters also maintains a directory of forestry professionals at osafdirectory.com. Your local SWCD can probably provide you with a list of consulting foresters who work in your area.


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Anna Harden

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