I’m not much of a “joiner,” but I do belong to a couple conservation-minded organizations. It has become obvious to me that one of these organizations recently sold my contact information to every other conservation organization in the United States, and possibly the world.
I have been invited to save the rainforest, the whales, tigers, and arctic wolves, as well as our national parks and rivers, among others.
Photos of impossibly cute wildlife babies adorn return address stamps given as a free gift, to which one can’t help but go, “Awww, they are so cute!”
While I respect the efforts of these groups, the reality is that conservation is important here in Ohio, too, even if we are not as exotic as the Amazon rainforest. Ohio has a surprisingly diverse population of wildlife, plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, fish, mollusks, and crustaceans, and there are many in each category considered endangered or threatened.
Conservation efforts over the past century have produced remarkable results and continue to do so.
One of my favorite classroom presentations is borrowed and modified from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, which has three maps depicting how the wildlife population in Ohio has changed since the early 1800s.
The map of 1800 shows rich wildlife diversity, with wolves, bear, elk and bison, believe it or not. The state is mostly green, indicating vast forests.
Forward 100 years to 1900, and the map has few wildlife species on a backdrop of mostly brown — representing a mostly deforested state.
And then in 2000 it shows a rebound in wildlife populations and diversity, as well as increased forest area. I talk about how conservation practices — promoted by local, state and federal agencies such as Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Conservation Service to name a few — turned it all around to where we are today.
But the message I really hope they take home is that each one of us plays a small role in the bigger conservation picture. Backyard practices like using less fertilizer and chemicals on lawns, to bigger practices like farmers no-tilling and sowing cover crops, all add up to make Ohio a better place, with clean water and productive soils.
That clean water and productive soil allows a diversity of fish and macroinvertebrate populations, as well as habitat for wildlife and crop fields that feed all of us.
The reality is that we are not going to go back to 1800 when there were only 40,000 people in the whole state. We have to make the effort to use our resources wisely to meet human needs as well as protect the environment.
My husband took my son out for his first turkey hunt a few weeks ago during youth hunting season. They called in five jakes to our little five-acre woods, and, at age 6, Wyatt bagged his first turkey — a bird that was extirpated from Ohio and just reintroduced in 1956. And now it’s back in force, thanks to the management efforts of the farmer whose land is behind us, the woodland owner beside us, the agencies that promote conservation, and those of us making a small difference every day.
Contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District for more information about conservation and how you can make a difference.