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Groups Say Ohio's Rock Run Needs Preservation, Not Development

668 plant and animal species have been identified in Ohio's Rock Run Watershed. (Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club)
668 plant and animal species have been identified in Ohio's Rock Run Watershed. (Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club)
November 20, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With massive oak trees, winding streams and hundreds of diverse species, the Rock Run Watershed is one of the state's most remote wilderness areas - and conservation groups want to ensure it will continue to flourish for future generations.

Rock Run encompasses about 1,400 acres of Shawnee State Forest, and the Ohio Division of Forestry is currently deciding if the upper portion of the watershed should be designated as a High Conservation Value Forest, which would protect it from commercial logging.

As executive director of the Midwest Biodiversity Institute, Peter Precario has done extensive surveying in the area. He said the forrest’s unique biodiversity should be preserved.

"It's an opportunity to protect something that is an extreme rarity,” Precarious said. "It would allow for the development and the continued growth of the timber to give it an opportunity to become a true old-growth forest in a fully protected watershed."

He said old-growth forest habitat is crucial to biodiversity and is almost completely gone in Ohio.

Rock Run's stream runs from Blackburn Ridge to the Ohio River, and its upper portion rates higher for water quality than most other small streams in the state. Dave Ackerman, co-chair of the Sierra Club’s Ohio Chapter, said they've identified 668 species so far in the area.

"Fourteen of those are reptiles and amphibians, 28 different species of ferns, 509 different vascular plant species - and, of those, we found 12 state-listed species which are either threatened or endangered,” Ackerman said. "So the diversity's really incredible."

Precario said protecting Rock Run would also bring economic benefits.

"It has the potential to be quite a tourist area. It has the potential for the kind of growth, the kind of development, the kind of jobs that go along with that,” he said. "And I would hate to see if lost for very, very short-term gains."

There is also historical significance to preserve, Precario said. Sandstone from the area was used to construct Cincinnati's Roebling suspension bridge and to rebuild Chicago after the 1871 fire.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH