Flip through the channels on television and an interesting pattern emerges. Shows about home building and remodeling have become prolific. One such program, TLC's Trading Spaces, rates among the most popular shows and has already produced numerous spin-offs. This interest coincides with a time when more Americans than ever own homes. It would come as no surprise that the demand for wood, the principal building material for homes, is also at a historic high. No other building material is as environmentally friendly or as renewable as wood. In addition - as today's popular remodeling shows demonstrate - it is often the beautiful and durable hardwood floors, framing, stairways and furniture that give a home its character, and highlights its beauty.
Many people may not realize that the Midwest of America - including Ohio - is known for producing the world's best hardwoods. What makes Ohio one of the best places to grow quality hardwood trees is our excellent soils and favorable growing climate: key ingredients for producing highly sought after trees such as oaks, walnuts and cherries. This demand directly supports more than 75,000 people in our state. In Ohio, we are proud of the work we have done to manage our private and public lands to support this building boom. But, we also know that we can do even more to provide a steady, sustainable supply of wood products, while managing our forests in an environmentally sound manner.
|Forest cover from 1940 to 1994
It is rewarding to look back at the growth of Ohio's forests over the past 80 years. In the early 1900s, trees covered only about 12 percent of the state - with much of the landscape consisting of abused farmlands with no forest cover, abandoned strip mine lands or severely cutover and neglected woodlands. Since then, state foresters have planted more than a half-billion trees in the Buckeye State, while providing conservation plans for hundreds of thousands of acres of private land. Today, thanks to sound forest management, Ohio's forests are thriving and now cover more than 30 percent of the state.
The benefits of sound forest management aren't limited to the production of highly valuable hardwood trees. Managing our forests has also helped us create different types of habitats to support a wide range of plant and wildlife species. Today's forests are supporting near-record populations of animals such as deer, wild turkey, and numerous endangered species. Our forests are also providing more recreational opportunities for hunters, hikers, bird watchers, and a host of other outdoor pursuits.
Several years ago, Governor Bob Taft launched the Ohio Forestry Initiative to further promote sound forest management. This includes an emphasis on using Best Management Practices and only allowing master loggers to conduct management projects on state forests. It's an effort showing great results on state forest lands and one we continue to encourage more private landowners to adopt.
Good forest management truly provides benefits at all levels: cash returns to landowners, increased habitat for wildlife, recreational opportunities, and great beauty. It also provides a renewable, environmentally safe building material for those seeking the American dream of their own home.
A digital image of John Dorka is available on the ODNR web site at http://www.ohiodnr.com/media/Dorka.jpg