Stephens, Vance oppose name change for Wayne National Forest

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 28, 2023

USDA proposes Buckeye National Forest

COLUMBUS — Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stephens, R-93, released a statement this week, opposing a proposed name change for Wayne National Forest.

“This is just another example of federal government overreach trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist, Stephens, of Getaway, whose district includes Lawrence County, said in a news release. 

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“As Ohio’s only national forest, Wayne National Forest has been a destination for all Ohioans and its visitors to enjoy nature and all that Southeast Ohio has to offer for nearly a century,” Stephens said.

The USDA Forest Service announced the proposed change for the 244,000-acre forest earlier this week, with a rename to Buckeye National Forest. The agency said the effort comes in response to requests from American Indian tribes and local community members. Other proposed names considered include “Ohio National Forest” and “Koteewa National Forest.”

Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne

The forest, established in 1992, is named after Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne (so nicknamed by his peers for his temperament), who the agency described as having a “complicated legacy,” including “leading a violent campaign against the Indigenous peoples of Ohio that resulted in their removal from their homelands.” 

Wayne’s victory over Native American tribes at the Aug. 20, 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers in northwest Ohio was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War. It led to the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, in which tribes ceded the lands of present day Ohio, leading to white settlement of the region.

The treaty was signed by the Chippewa, Delaware, Eel River, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Miami, Ottawa, Piankishaw, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Wea and Wyandot tribes, many of whom were displaced to Oklahoma.

Stephens described the proposed name change as an effort by “the woke Biden administration” at “erasing Major General Anthony Wayne — an integral part in the settling of Ohio.”

Stephens was joined in his opposition by U.S. Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, who said Wayne “heroically served” the U.S.

“I ask that you reverse this misguided decision to rename Wayne National Forest,” Vance wrote in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “It would greatly benefit Ohioans and all Americans if our government could be counted on to defend our Founding Fathers, instead of capitulating to politically motivated renaming efforts. Until such courage can be found, I humbly recommend that the federal government disband all renaming committees.”

Due to his connection to Tri-State history, numerous tributes for Wayne exist in the region, including Wayne counties in both Ohio and West Virginia, the town of Wayne West Virginia and Camp Mad Anthony, a park in Huntington, West Virginia.