By: Tyler Gillette
Have you ever driven across Ohio? Ohio is covered by 15,000,000 acres of farmland that is privately owned and should be a big target for conservation. Private lands in Ohio are also used for outdoor recreation activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, and hiking. More attention should be brought to push private landowners to become conservationists.
Imagine if most private landowners were to all use as many conservation practices as they could while still making money. One of the most famous conservationists, Aldo Leopold, said in A Sand County Almanac, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” This is what private landowners in Ohio should try to do when managing their properties so that they can enhance their land while still make a profit. There are a lot of benefits for private landowners to practice conservation. It would help keep the land and soil in good condition and protect it for future use because it would reduce soil erosion, better soil quality by decreasing the frequency of tilling, improve water quality by allowing the soil to store excess nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers) and pollutants (such as herbicides and insecticides), and allow the soil to preserve groundwater sources. Implementing conservation techniques while farming would also add more wildlife habitat to help restore prairies, wetlands, and forests. This increase in habitat would result from the increase in native vegetation, decrease in habitat fragmentation, connecting of natural areas using “buffers” or corridors, and increased riparian zone quality (area along streams and rivers).
Many organizations do not prioritize private landowners, but organizations such as Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and National Wild Turkey Federation work with and champion private lands. Ohio and other states also promote conservation on private lands by offering management tips and assistance. Federal programs for private landowners include the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP), Farmable Wetlands Program (FWP), Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), Source Water Protection Program (SWPP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and lastly the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). These programs have had their successes and failures, and some work better than others. Some of these programs have been discontinued or condensed into other programs.
An example of how private landowners in Ohio are making a big difference involves the combined efforts of the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW), Pheasants & Quail Forever (PF), and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to create the Fallsville Quail Heritage Area in Highland County, Ohio near Hillsboro. It is based around the Fallsville Wildlife Area, and there are private lands that are involved in conservation programs such as CRP. These private lands create buffers and corridors to prevent habitat fragmentation and to connect to the wildlife area to provide more habitat. The goal is to create more habitat for quail, since quail serve as an umbrella species for other wildlife like pollinators, deer, turkey, and other birds. 1,700 acres of state land and 8,100 acres of private land are involved in this project.
Through private landowners’ conservation practices and collaborations such as the Fallsville Quail Heritage Area, private landowners can make Ohio’s use of natural resources great again!
Check out these links to learn more about the Fallsville Quail Heritage Area:
Images via Creative Commons.