American Electric Power (AEP), Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Ohio Public Works Commission and Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) have worked together to permanently preserve an additional 934 acres of forestland in Linton Township, Coshocton County, Ohio. The Extension Property is adjacent to the original 1,827 acre Coshocton Forest Property (to the north) and the 3,807 acre Wills Creek Lake Property (to the south). This land, which has been open for public use for years as part of the Conesville Public Recreation Area will forever remain open to public use due to a successful partnership between a large corporation, local and state government, and the largest land trust in Ohio. The permanent conservation of the forest will ensure recreational use for community members and visitors and continue to contribute to the local economy with tourism revenue.
Putting the puzzle pieces together to create a contiguous corridor of conserved land benefits wildlife and people alike, we are grateful to our partners for working together to achieve these shared goals – Alex Czayka, Western Reserve Land Conservancy
Utilizing Clean Ohio funding, the MWCD and Western Reserve Land Conservancy acquired the property from AEP. The vast natural area will be open to the public for hiking, bird watching, nature study, fishing, hunting and more. The property will offer immense community benefit, adding to the $56.5 million tourism industry in Coshocton County. Coshocton Forest Extension is located in the Muskingum River watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in the state of Ohio, encompassing 8,051 square miles.
“The Land Conservancy is proud to play a role in the conservation of such a large and important addition to a well-established conservation area,” said Alex Czayka, Senior Vice President for Conservation Transactions at Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “Putting the puzzle pieces together to create a contiguous corridor of conserved land benefits wildlife and people alike, we are grateful to our partners for working together to achieve these shared goals.”
The acquisition of Coshocton Forest Extension will preserve 100 acres of wetlands, and more than 16,000 linear feet of Primary Headwater streams as they originate on the property. The acquisition and preservation of Coshocton Forest Extension will protect the integrity of these valuable natural resources and sustain their capacity to provide high-quality plant and animal habitat, storm water mitigation, and water quality protection within the Muskingum River watershed, among other benefits.
“Deals like this are complex and take a lot of time,” said Craig Butler, MWCD Executive Director. “We appreciate the teamwork with AEP, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and the Office of Public Works to help MWCD acquire this property. By securing this property, MWCD will have multiple opportunities to implement conservation and recreation measures in line with MWCD’s mission, that will further enhance the preservation, conservation, and recreation of the property for the benefit of the public for generations to come. We are excited to start talking to our stakeholders on how best to manage and develop these lands for all to enjoy.”
The Property provides excellent habitat for rare plant and animal species, including species important to Ohio’s natural heritage. Natural resource and species surveys of the Property have revealed 82 species of birds, 16 of which are State-listed species, including two Species of Concern (Henslow’s sparrow and cerulean warbler). A lichen species listed as “Globally Imperiled” has also been identified, as was a wetland-indicator plant (floating pondweed) listed as an Ohio Potentially Threatened species. Additionally, seven rare species (the red-spotted newt and six moths) were identified as being the first-time recorded in Coshocton County.
The project also presents outstanding opportunities for connectivity of protected area and linkage to public outdoor recreation areas. In addition to creating a 6,586-acre block, all owned and managed by MWCD, the Property is the “missing link” that further connects to ODNR-managed AEP Conesville ReCreation Lands (4,333), thus establishing over 10,000 acres of natural area open for recreation opportunities.
The MWCD will own and manage the property moving forward. MWCD currently manages over 56,000 acres of water and land in the Muskingum River Watershed. The Coshocton Forest Extension is planned to be managed for the preservation and enhancement of healthy sustainable forests and waters, along with the conservation of valuable natural resources. At the same time the property will be managed to continue to provide and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities for the public to enjoy.