Ohio's hunters retain access to a nearly 16,000-acre playground.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources - in cooperation with such groups as the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other groups and agencies as well as Ohio senators Sherrod Brown and George V. Voinovich - will be acquiring the property in two parcels.
Total cost will be $15.1 million with 70 percent of the funding coming from the federal government's U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service along with private sources.
The ODNR also will release $3.9 million that's all ready been appropriated to complete the purchase of the 3,250-acre Vinton (County) Furnace Experimental State Forest and the adjacent 12,599-acre Raccoon Ecological Management Area.
The fear was the property would pass into private hands and then closed to public access. Final sales work is expected to be completed by next July.
The Vinton Furnace area is said to contain one of the last large remnants of Appalachian forest left in Ohio and provides habitat for the state's endangered bobcat and black bear along with a host of birds, including the highest recorded densities of cerulean warblers.
ODNR spokeswoman Christy Wilt said the property will be open to public access, including hunting, once all the paperwork is completed and the property is owned by the agency.
It has good populations of deer, wild turkeys and even ruffed grouse.
While the site has been open to public hunting for at least the past several decades the current owner has not allowed roadside camping, though previous owners have permitted this activity. The ODNR's Division of Forestry is looking at reestablishing this item.
Interestingly too, the site is the first in the state where wild turkeys were released to repopulate Ohio.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn