• 63°

Land buy in Rome part of Ohio’s largest privately owned preserve

ROME (AP) — A conservation group bought nearly 1,000 acres of forest land in Southern Ohio, taking it one step closer to its goal of creating an uninterrupted corridor for wildlife near the Ohio River.

The Gaffin family sold its land to the Nature Conservancy last fall after decades of back and forth meetings.

Ralph Gaffin told The Columbus Dispatch his family owned the land for the past 200 years.

“You hate to let something like that go,” Gaffin said. “But on the other hand … now other people will be able to enjoy it.”

The recent sale was the Nature Conservancy’s largest purchase ever in Ohio. The land will be part of the state’s largest privately owned nature preserve, covering more than 19,000 acres.

The group has been piecing together small tracts of land over time because most parcels in the area are privately owned by families.

Rich McCarty, a naturalist with the Edge of Appalachia, said the tract was critical to the preserve’s mission. The location is home to many endangered species such as green salamanders and bobcats.

“We continue to find things that are unexpected and unusual here,” McCarty said.

Many parts of Ohio’s wilderness are threatened due to factors such as invasive species and oil and gas development. Mary Gaffin said it was emotional for her family to let the land go.

“By selling to the Nature Conservancy, we feel that it will not be destroyed,” Gaffin said.

The Nature Conservancy’s goal is to expand the preserve from West Union in Adams County to about 20 miles east near Portsmouth and the Shawnee State Forest.