Forest Service and Ohio sign declaration of shared stewardship
Published 1:05 am Monday, December 28, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The USDA Forest Service today signed a Declaration of Shared Stewardship with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, further strengthening their commitment to using an all-lands approach to forest management in the state. Ohio marks the twentieth state to sign a Shared Stewardship Agreement with the USDA.
Shared Stewardship is a national initiative that responds to the urgent and growing challenges faced by managers and owners of forests in Ohio and across the nation, among them wildfires, drought, and epidemics of forest insects and disease. The signatories on this Declaration are Ohio State Forester Dan Balser, on behalf of Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz, and USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen.
“The forest management challenges we face in Ohio transcend jurisdictional boundaries,” said Chief Christiansen “By working together and using our collective resources and authorities, we can ensure that we’re doing the right work at the right scale and at the right time in the State of Ohio.”
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“This agreement formalizes our longstanding commitment to collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service,” said Balser. “We will continue working together, focused on the sustainable management of our forests for the benefit of all Ohioans.”
Ohio’s forests not only provide clean air and water and diverse plant and animal habitat, but they also support strong and resilient communities. Forest ownership in Ohio includes 345,000 families or individuals who own 70 percent of the forest land in the state. Ohio’s forests support approximately 58,000 people working in forestry-based jobs, while the state’s forest industry generates $27 billion in total economic activity. Southeast Ohio’s greater Appalachian Mountains ecosystem contains the oldest and most biologically diverse forest and freshwater systems in North America.
There is a long history of collaboration under established partnerships between state and federal government agencies in Ohio. The state established a joint forestry team in 2008 with the Wayne National Forest, Ohio Division of Forestry and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service state office which has expanded over time to include other public agencies and institutions. More recently, the state and the USDA implemented a project with the same partners on collaborative oak management. Shared Stewardship builds on these efforts and promotes opportunities to work together to set landscape-scale priorities, implement projects at the appropriate scale, co-manage risks, share resources, learn from each other and build capacity to improve forest conditions for the public we all serve.