Some things are simply too special to be treated like the rest. Your grandchildren for example, are somehow more- dear to your heart. Or the Vietnam Memorial, feels like a yet fresh wound. Something we treat a bit differently than a Revolutionary War relic.
Mohican State Forest is like that. Sure, when it was set aside as a State Forest, it was because the land had been misused and eroded. It needed the protection offered by the State. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted thousands upon thousands of trees to restore the land. A Memorial Forest was set aside, as a tribute to those who had died in American wars. The land, like our country, began to heal.
Today, those pines stand tall. Occasionally, with a glimpse from the right angle, you’ll even notice the straight lines in which they were planted. But the course of time has changed things, dramatically. These are no longer the saplings our forefathers planted. They are tall, nearly century old trees. A forester might say they are “over-mature”. But in the scale of deep-time and the ages, they have barely started. Compared to rock and the soils in which they stand, they are mere kindergarten trees.
Trees, like people, don’t always age well. Some get disease, other are victims of invasive insects, accidents, or calamitous weather events. Death is a part of life, and death in the forest means regeneration. The fallen- feed the molds and microbes until they become one with the soil again.
The openings created when a tree falls become an interior island of biodiversity. Pioneering plants, waiting as seeds in the soils, react to the sunlight with luxuriant growth. Young trees quickly race toward the sky to fill the hole. Birds and other wildlife, respond to these edge habitats, filling them with song and young.
Not all of Mohican is planted pines. The Mohican Gorge is a gift from the Ice Age. The steep banks and soft native Hemlocks create habitat for ground thrushes, like Veery and Wood Thrush. Wintering migrants, such as crossbills and Evening Grosbeak seek the shelter of our dense evergreen forest, unlike the 4%-5% of evergreen cover the Division of Wildlife cites for the rest of Ohio.
We don’t want Mohican to look or feel -or sound- like the rest of Ohio. It is special. From the Clear Fork State Nature Preserve and the trails at the Covered Bridge to the pine woodlots, Mohican is more than a good place to produce pulpwood and timber. It is not just a forest for the trees. As in any dynamic ecosystem, Mohican needs all stages and ages of lifeforms- including trees.
Ohio Division of Forestry would like us to think of Mohican as an industrial woodlot. And yes, they are the experts on producing board feet of timber and pulp. However, if another stick of lumber never came out of Mohican, we would have no “timber crisis” or shortage in Ohio. Our private foresters are serving us well, producing 97% of Ohio’s timber products on private lands. But Mohican’s public land is simply too special to be in a timber rotation, or subject to selective cuts.
Mohican is for Moms and Dads. It is a place for family picnics and hikes. The roar of saws and timber trucks should be as infrequent as the ones in our own backyards at home: restricted to safety issues and truly hazardous trees.
Most of all, Ohioans own Mohican and should not be brushed aside by the Division of Forestry to use our recreational haven for their timber crop.
Mohican should not be treated like other state forests, it is simply too special.
Cheryl Harner, Weedpicker