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Wayne National buys 2,180 acres

The Wayne National Forest got 10 percent bigger when the Nature Conservancy in Ohio sold 2,180 acres of forestland on Wednesday morning.

The Nature Conservancy acquired 4,117 acres of land called the Cambria Tract in 2003 and 2005 from the Mead-Westvaco company. And over the past three years, it has been purchased by the U.S. Forest Service to bring the total acreage of the Wayne National Forest to 240,979.

“This has the ‘Wow’ factor,” said Ironton Ranger Tim Slone of the Ironton Ranger District, as the gathered people looked over the acres and acres of meadowlands and forest from atop a ridge near the 24-mile marker on U.S. 93. “This is quite a piece of land.”

Slone, who had been on the job for two weeks now, said he knew the Cambria Tract was an important acquisition when he kept getting e-mail after e-mail about the project. And seeing it only emphasized the point.

“It is a really nice piece of land,” he said.

The final portion of the tract, the Anderson Meadows Public Hunting and Viewing Area, was named after Ora E. Anderson, a former Nature Conservancy trustee who supported the establishment and growth of Wayne National Forest. His daughter, Susie Scott, said her father would have been pleased with this property. Anderson died two years ago.

“If he were here today, he would have a huge grin on his face and say, ‘Look at this. Isn’t this great? Isn’t this fabulous?’” she said.

She added her father would never “chain himself to a tree,” but he would get a legislator in “an arm lock and work them the best he could” to help the Wayne National Forest.

“This was his opportunity to have a lasting legacy and we appreciate this being named after him,” she said.

Jerri Marr, the WNF’s acting Forest Supervisor, said she saw the forest mission as “the day-to-day job of managing the nation’s inheritance.”

“I am looking forward to this addition to the Wayne National Forest,” she said. “And for the future, for citizens of Ohio and our young people to see there is more to life than just buildings and cars.”

Dave Graham, the chief of the Division of Wildlife for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said it was a great to work with every agency involved in the process to get the land into public use.

While the Nature Conversancy owned the property, ODNR provided wildlife law enforcement, access management and caretaker duties before the land was transferred to WNF.

“It has taken a lot of partners to get to this point,” he said.

Jacob Knight, the executive director of the Nature Conservancy in Ohio said this was a great way to honor the group’s 50th anniversary in the state.

“We have been thrilled to be part of this,” he said.

Phil Roberts, a field rep for Congressman Charlie Wilson, said he remembered growing up nearby and going with his father to collect coal to heat their home in the winter.

Speaking of how the land looked now, he said, “It was a great use of unclaimed or abandoned mining land. Everyone has put a lot of hard work into this.”

State Rep. Clyde Evans said the view was exhilarating and this was a perfect example of mixing free enterprise and government.

“Government is the only entity that can do something like this and I applaud the U.S. Forest Service for what they’ve done in Wayne National Forest,” he said. “This is going to be a real service for local people and preserve part of this great nation and southern Ohio.”

Buddy Fry, president of the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, gave a land user’s perspective. He said he was happy to represent the hunters who will use the land.

“From a personal perspective, all we can add to the Wayne and all we can add to the wildlife areas in Ohio is great,” he said, adding that he has friends in northern Ohio who are jealous of the amount of public land we have in this area. “We are fortunate to have it.”

Mary Redden, the WNF Forest Supervisor who retired in March, attended and was called to the podium to make a few remarks. She was one of many people who worked to get the property into the national forest.

“This is a wonderful purchase,” she said. “This is a purchase for our grandkids before they even get here.”

Besides being for hunting, the Cambria Tract has numerous fishing ponds, open meadows and a mix of hardwood and conifer trees. It also has the Pioneer Iron Furnace Stack and was once the site of much Underground Railroad activity. The land is made up of forest and reclaimed mine land.