This Land Is Our Land

Toledo Local Features  |  03/05/2013 9:00 am

Black Swamp Conservancy Origins
Twenty years ago, residents of Northwest Ohio were more concerned with building subdivisions and strip malls rather than preserving the farms, forests and wetlands which already existed. Fortunately, a number of concerned citizens took it upon themselves to create the Black Swamp Conservancy, now a leader among local conservation organizations and Ohio land trusts. In 2013, Black Swamp Conservancy has two decades of accomplishments to celebrate.

"Currently, Black Swamp Conservancy protects 12,875 acres of our region's most significant agricultural lands and natural areas--forever," explained Sarah Brokamp, Advancement Coordinator of Black Swamp Conservancy. "We do this to preserve the rural heritage, unique natural habitats, and lakes and streams of Northwest Ohio."

Perhaps you've visited some of Black Swamp Conservancy's protected lands, which includes the Pearson Metropark Wetlands and South Shore Park Wetlands in Oregon, the 577 Foundation in Perrysburg, properties on the Lake Erie islands, and the Forrest Woods Nature Preserve near Cecil, among others. From Monroe County to Sandusky County, the Conservancy holds more than 100 conservation easements, 292 acres of nature preserves, and protects land in 12 Ohio counties.

The work hasn't been easy. As Brokamp explained, Ohio loses 40,000 acres of agricultural land each year, and has already lost 95% of its original wetlands. By collaborating with landowners and donors and developing strategic partnerships, Black Swamp Conservancy is able to protect more land and reach additional supporters through various programs.

Knowledge is Preservation
If the same few people who first formed Black Swamp Conservancy had not taken the time to educate others about land conservation, there would be much less land to watch over today. While the organization works on acquiring additional land each year, one of its most important services is providing the public with the adequate education.

Offering land conservation workshops to area youth, the Conservancy gives children a chance to experience protected natural areas first-hand. This is the kind of lesson they can't learn from a text book or story, and the impact is ever-lasting.

Additionally, Black Swamp Conservancy educates local organizations and average citizens on the importance of land conservation. You might not recognize all the benefits at first glance. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, land conservation is an important economic development tool.

"Agriculture and food has a $107 billion economic impact in Ohio and provides jobs for one in ever seven Ohioans, but is throated by farmland loss," Brokamp said. "Our farmland preservation initiative has created large blocks of preserved farmland near important farming communities, helping ensure the future of the Northwest Ohio agriculture industry."

It's no secret that nature preserves and other open space contribute to a healthy community, providing outdoor recreation and keeping the air and drinking water clean. Northwest Ohio residents are fans of hunting, fishing (let's go Walleye!) and birdwatching, which can only take place where there is adequate undeveloped land and clean water.

Blue Grass & Green Acres
To commemorate 20 years of land conservation efforts in Northwest Ohio, Black Swamp Conservancy hosts its 2nd Annual Blue Grass & Green Acres event on Friday, March 15th at Bowling Green State University. Black Swamp Conservancy invites the public, particularly members of the community who may not yet be familiar with the Conservancy's efforts, to enjoy live music and old-fashioned cookin'. Current supporters, land owners and board members will gather to celebrate Black Swamp Conservancy's accomplishments. The event runs from 6:30-11 p.m.  and admission is $40 per person.

"This is an extremely fun, casual event," Brokamp said. "We have a bluegrass band (The Wayfarers) coming from southern Ohio, along with a quartet from the Toledo Symphony to provide music for the evening. The menu is made up of familiar 'down home' favorites including pork tenderloin slides and slaw and mini blueberry pies. We also have some of the most unique auction items I've ever seen."

For more information about Black Swamp Conservancy or to purchase tickets for Blue Grass & Green Acres, please visit