Eye in the sky says northwestern Ohio farmland loss less than thought

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BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Farmland lost to urban sprawl in northwest Ohio may not be as significant as some thought.

A Bowling Green State University study led by geologist Robert Vincent used satellite data to estimate how much of Lucas County and eight surrounding counties became urbanized between 1984 and 1999.

The figure was less than 3 percent (about 11,000 acres) in Lucas County, and even lower in the other eight counties – Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Williams and Wood.

For the nine counties combined, an estimated 38,590 acres were urbanized over the 15 years. That’s roughly 60 square miles.

Satellite images. The study compared satellite images of the region in July 1984 and September 1999 to reach its estimates.

Due to cloud cover, only half of Putnam County, 60 percent of Paulding County and 79 percent of Ottawa County could be analyzed. As a result, the estimated amount of urbanized farmland in those counties was extrapolated from the percentage of each county that could be observed.

Don’t panic. Vincent said the amount of cropland loss was lower than he had expected.

“We still have to be careful about our farmland, but at least we don’t have to be panicked that it’s (urbanization) happening at an extremely high rate,” he said.

If the figures are lower than many people might think, it’s in part a function of statistics, Vincent acknowledged.

Taking the same farm acreage that was lost during the 15-year period and looking at it in terms of urban acreage would give the appearance of large urban growth, especially since urban acreage is relatively small in the combined nine-county area, he explained.

“People don’t realize how big northwest Ohio is,” he said.

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