Ohio’s largest single tract of privately held forest now forever protected

VINTON COUNTY, OH – Representatives of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) have finalized agreements to permanently protect 15,896 contiguous acres in Vinton County as a working forest and to assure its continued public access for outdoor recreation.

The Raccoon Ecological Management Area or REMA, formerly owned by Dayton-based Mead Corporation, is the largest tract of privately owned woodland remaining in the state. A unique partnership involving ODNR; The Conservation Fund, a non-profit environmental organization; and The Forestland Group, a North Carolina-based timberland investment management organization, will allow the area to continue as a working forest. At the same time, it will remain open to public hunting, fishing, hiking and wildlife watching.

“Conservation is the art and science of foresight,” said Sean Logan, director of ODNR. “Projects like this represent an important part of Ohio’s strategy to manage our resources in ways that will provide the greatest benefit for the longest time possible.”

ODNR purchased conservation easements on 12,649 acres of the property for $6,324,500. Agency representatives also signed a memorandum of understanding to protect the inclusive Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest until a conservation easement is obtained for that 3,247-acre tract. Vinton Furnace is considered one of the most important forest research and demonstration sites east of the Mississippi River, and is used for education and training by industry and government.

Vinton County in southeast Ohio is the center of the state’s $15 billion forest products industry. REMA’s woodlands will continue to be managed for timber, using sustainable practices.

Bobcats, black bears, timber rattlesnakes, cerulean warblers and other endangered species that require large blocks of woodland habitat, as well as countless other game species, will benefit from the conservation easement. The southern tip of REMA is home to the state’s largest known population of bobcat.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife announced in December that it would purchase outright an additional 4,879 acres of former Mead Corporation lands in Jackson, Vinton and Ross counties for $5,776,287. Those tracts will become state wildlife areas.

Together, these acquisitions will preserve almost 21,000 acres of southeast Ohio woods as public lands.