Protecting Natural Areas

Written by Curator Emeritus Bob Glotzhober

The Ohio Historical Society maintains a small variety of natural areas along with its historical and archaeological sites. Several of these are National Natural Landmarks and/or Dedicated State Nature Preserves. Go to our sites webpages for more information on each of these significant areas.

Decades ago some people thought that to protect and preserve a natural area, all you had to do was to place an easement on it or purchase it and declare that it was protected. Some thought, “put up a fence a round it and it will be safe”. Intelligent thinkers both then and now understand that such is far from the truth. Natural areas need legal protection, protection from vandals and careless actions yes, but more importantly they need ecological protection. These areas are constantly changing through a variety of natural processes and with mostly small, isolated areas these changes are not always good for the rarest and most treasured plants and animals living in them. So biological monitoring, research and careful but active management (manipulation) of the habitat may be required.

In the 1970s, Ohio’s legislature passed the Natural Areas Act and established within the Ohio Department of Natural Resources the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves (DNAP). During the 1980s and most of the 1990s, the Ohio DNAP was recognized as one of the leading agencies in the United States with an outstanding program preserving and protecting natural areas. During the last several years the realities of economic cutbacks have been severe for DNAP. In 2011, their budget was cut to zero and staff were divided up into the Division of Wildlife and the Division of Parks. Reduced to a very basic core, and spread amongst different divisions with different prime objectives, DNAP is currently struggling to maintain and protect the 130 key natural areas in Ohio–which includes those OHS sites that are, or will be, dedicated state nature preserves.

Enter a new player. There is now a private, membership based non-profit organization called the Ohio Natural Areas & Preserves Association (ONAPA). Their goal is to a non-partisan supporter to all natural areas in Ohio, with their key objectives being that these areas are:

1.)    Adequately protected
2.)    Receive appropriate management
3.)    And are appreciated and supported for the benefit of all Ohioans.

The organization is a volunteer group that will work with the ODNR to assist them in a variety of mutually beneficial ways to accomplish these joint goals. You can learn more, and join, by visiting their website at

Bob Glotzhober
Senior Curator of Natural History

Posted December 13, 2012

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