Local effort to protect NW Ohio land - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Local effort to protect NW Ohio land

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Thousands of acres here in Northwest Ohio are permanently protected thanks to the work of a grass roots organization. The Black Swamp Conservancy protects land ranging from farms to wetlands and woodlands. As of right now, the group has more than 100 properties in its land trust ranging from less than a quarter of an acre up to hundreds of acres. Board President Eric Kraus says they're focused now on getting even more people involved in protecting land for the generations to come,"We give landowners both public and private the opportunity to protect their property forever."

The 577 Foundation in Perrysburg is one of the most recognizable properties in the land trust and it's open to the public, "Our primary mission focuses on two things, agricultural land and green space. The green space can be anything from woodlands and wetlands to a broad variety of ecologically important areas in Northwest Ohio."

Here's how it works.The Conservancy owns about 360 acres of nature preserves, but in most cases a landowner enters into what's called a conservation easement with the Conservancy. Executive Director Rob Krain says the permanent agreement limits the things that can be done on a piece of land, "We restrict land uses like subdivisions, cutting of trees and converting farm land, but the owner retains ownership and management of the property."

Kraus says it's important to note that restricting land use does not mean anti-development,"We're not an anti-development organization and we feel that is important to stress. Its about protecting what is important to protect and developing what makes sense to develop."

According to the Conservancy, Ohio's number one industry is agriculture and the state loses five acres of rural land every hour. The Carter-Loomis Farm just outside Bowling Green is part of the more than 13,000 acres that have been protected through the work of the Conservancy. Kraus says they are focused on protecting even more farm land and natural areas, "That number is growing more meaningfully each year in large part because we can be more strategic in how we reach out to the community and landowners can learn what we can do to help them reach their goals." Krain points out  the work of the Conservancy benefits us all,"If drinking clean water and breathing fresh air are important to you, you should care about what we do." 

In honor of  Earth Day on Tuesday the Conservancy has a big project at one of its sites near Fremont. So far they've planted about 17,000 trees there to restore a streamside forest and Tuesday they'll continue that work. They're also kicking off the "Help Us Grow" campaign with the goal of raising one dollar for every acre they protect, which adds up to a goal of raising just over $13,000.

Visit blackswamp.org to find out how you can help.

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