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No "Tree Museums" Here: Black Swamp Conservancy Preserves NWO Paradise

Published: 12/12/2011 7:00 am By: Katie Warchol

They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.

With the Black Swamp Conservancy in Mother Nature’s corner, that sentence is becoming a distant memory in northwest Ohio. Dedicated to protecting agricultural and natural areas through land conservation, the Black Swamp conservancy is a non-profit organization unlike any other.

“We protect about 11,000 acres of woods, farmland, wetlands, and shoreline that will never become a shopping center, office building, or housing development,” said Sarah Brokamp, advancement coordinator with the Conservancy. She said they protect land in 12 northwest Ohio counties and in Monroe county, Michigan-- an area larger than the state of Connecticut.

When landowners wish to maintain the integrity of their land for future generations, they turn to the Conservancy for help. The organization either buys the land outright and maintains its natural condition, accepts land donations, or the land is protected through a conservation easement. The easement is an agreement between the landowner and a non-profit land trust like Black Swamp Conservancy that lays out how the land can and cannot be used in the future. The unique feature is the landowner never gives up the rights to the property; they simply agree on its best use for future generations. For example, Brokamp said a farmer might agree his land can never be used for any purpose beside agriculture, and for good reason.

“Economics is one of the reasons our work is so important,” she said. “Agriculture and food is the leading industry in Ohio--a $79 billion industry-- but we are losing prime farmland at a rate second only to Texas. We lose 5 acres of farmland every hour here in Ohio. That trend cannot continue without crippling the Buckeye State's economy. Preservation of working farms is critical to assuring the continued success of Ohio's agriculture industry.”

Northwest Ohio being in the heart of the Great Black Swamp also means there’s a wealth of wildlife and native plants that thrive in the area. One such untouched remnant of the historic wetland is the 252 acre Forrest Woods Nature Preserve, home to more than 30 rare, threatened and endangered species of plants and animals. Brokamp said this is an especially important feather in their cap, considering Ohio has already lost 90 percent of its wetlands.

Brokamp said America loses two million acres of farms, forests and open spaces to development each year, but thanks to the Conservancy’s efforts, they’re helping put a stop to the traffic congestion, pollution and increased demand for public services associated with over-development. Even the smallest piece of protected, natural land provides enjoyment and a much-needed