Forestry in the Buckeye State
Prior to settlement, Ohio is estimated to have been 95% forested. The state experienced a steady decline in forest cover from the time of settlement until around 1940, when forest cover dipped to just 12%, due to forests having been cleared for farmland and to support large charcoal and iron production industries. From 1940 to 1991, however, the state saw a steady increase in forested land, and since 1991, the percent of forest cover has remained steady. Today, forests cover just over 30% (7.92 million acres) of the state.
Ohio’s forests provide many ecological, economic, and social benefits and services. The state’s forests are rich in biodiversity, providing habitat for 350 species of terrestrial wildlife and over 500 species of plants, and they play a critical role in maintaining quality aquatic habitat. They also provide significant economic benefits, from manufacturing of furniture and related products, nature-based tourism, non-timber forest products (e.g., ginseng, maple syrup, Christmas trees), and other forest product related industries. An array of ecosystem services, such as improved air and water quality, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, energy reduction in urban areas, and scenic landscapes for recreation, are provided by Ohio’s forests as well, though their benefits frequently remain difficult to convey in monetary terms. On the 12% of Ohio’s forest land that is publicly owned, management often focuses on sustaining some or all of these benefits and services.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry is the agency responsible for promoting and applying management for the sustainable use of Ohio's private and public forest lands. For more than a century, the Division has served Ohio’s citizens and promoted the wise use, protection, and benefits of their forest resources. The Division manages Ohio’s 21 state forests, encompassing nearly 200,000 acres, and provides forest management assistance to public and private landowners throughout the state.