Northwest Ohio has another feather in its wild habitat cap, one that further recognizes the importance of the region's remaining natural areas.
Recently the marshlands of southwestern Lake Erie in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan were declared a Regional Shorebird Reserve by the 16-member Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network.
It is only the second such reserve designated in the Midwest, the other being the internationally known Cheyenne Bottoms in Kansas.
Now Audubon Ohio, an arm of the National Audubon Society, has listed 23 areas of this region as Important Bird Areas - places critical for nesting, migratory resting, and feeding for a myriad of species of both non-game and game birds.
The regional listing comprises almost a third of all the IBAs - 71 - that Audubon has established in Ohio.
“Ohio plays a tremendously important role as breeding habitat and stopovers for migrating birds,” John Ritzenthaler, AO's director of habitat conservation, said.
The IBA program carries no regulatory impact, nor does the Shorebird Reserve declaration. But, importantly, IBA designation is meant to add the weight of public opinion and call public attention to such issues as public land acquisition, conservation easements on private land, and cooperative management plans in regard to wildlife habitats.
A total of 140 public and private areas in the state were nominated for the program. Criteria included a high concentration of birds in a given area, presence of birds associated with a unique habitat, presence of one or more species of high conservation priority, or a history of bird research.
The IBAs in northwest Ohio, by county, include:
Lucas - Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge; Kitty Todd Nature Preserve; Mallard Club Marsh State Wildlife Area; Metzger Marsh State Wildlife Area; Oak Openings Preserve Metropark; Park Colony Road (private land/mudflats in Jerusalem Township); Side Cut Metropark; West Sister Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Ottawa - The Bass Islands of Lake Erie; Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area/Crane Creek State Park and surroundings; Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and surroundings.
Sandusky - Pickerel Creek State Wildlife Area; Resthaven State Wildlife Area (extends into Erie County).
Erie - Edison Woods Reserve; Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve.
Huron - Exchange Roads Grasslands.
Wyandot - Killdeer Plains State Wildlife Area.
Hardin - Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve.
Allen - Kendrick Woods, in the Johnny Appleseed Metropark District; Metzger and Ferguson Reservoirs.
Van Wert - St. Marys River Corridor
Paulding - Marie DeLarme Forest.
Williams - Lake LaSuAn State Wildlife Area.
National issues commentary: With a stroke of his pen, President Clinton can be well-remembered by conservationists and sportsmen.
He can do for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska what he did for the wildlife and desert life-rich Kaiparowits Plateau region in Utah. He can save it from mineral development by declaring as a national monument a disputed area in ANWR
Where coal mining was the issue in Utah, oil drilling is the issue in Alaska. Big Oil wants to get its hands on the ANWR coastal plains, a small portion of the 19.5 million-acre refuge. And uglify it, as it has done to Prudhoe Bay to the northwest along the North Slope.
ANWR's coastal plain is a nesting and calving haven for a myriad of species of birds and mammals. The refuge in toto is to America what the famed, game-rich Serengeti Plains are to East Africa.
The debate has been beaten to death for 20 years and Big Oil so far has been turned back. A six-month supply of oil is not worth the permanent ruin of a national treasure, not just one state's resource to be sold to the highest bidder.
The public repeatedly has said it wants to save all of ANWR, not just what Big Oil doesn't want.
As one observer has said, drilling for oil in ANWR makes no more sense than damming the Grand Canyon for it hydro power potential. Or, as one conservationist said, ANWR ought to be the last place where we drill for oil, not the next.
So let's end the political games-playing and sign off on ANWR, Mr. President. You'll be a hero in this regard.
To show support on this issue, call the White House - dial 202-456-1111. The fax is 202-456-2461.
Steve Pollick is The Blade's outdoor writer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.