Sunday, May 27, 2018
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ODNR's leader no fish out of water

The new man at the helm of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Sean Logan, plans to chart a balanced course for his far-flung agency, a course that combines wise use and long-term survival of the state's wild bounty.

Woods, waters, wildlife, and just about everything else above, below, or in-between comes under ODNR purview and stewardship, and Logan, 40, has come to understand that in his political and administrative career to date. Which hints at why Gov. Ted Strickland appointed him to the cabinet. He assumed his duties Jan. 8.

"I will always strive to find the appropriate balance so that people can enjoy Ohio's outdoors as much as possible and at the same time make sure it's there for future generations as well," he states.

Logan inherits a diverse, 12-division agency with a $335 million budget and 3,105 employees, more than 1,650 of them full-timers. The ODNR oversees everything from soup to nuts outdoors - hunting, fishing, parks, boating, natural areas, scenic rivers, oil and gas drilling, mining, soil and water conservation, forestry, geology, water, recycling, and more.

The department owns and manages more than 590,000 acres of land, including 74 state parks, 20 state forests, 127 nature preserves, and 120 wildlife areas. Its jurisdiction spreads to 120,000 acres of inland waters, 7,000 miles of streams, 481 miles of Ohio River, and 2 1/4-million acres of Lake Erie.

On paper Logan's education seemed to groom him for politics and administration - a bachelor's degree in political science and speech communications at Muskingum College, then a law degree from Capital University Law School. But in almost every post he has found himself hip deep in natural resources issues.

From 1990 to 2000, he served in the Ohio House of Representatives, during which time he was assigned to the House Environment and Energy Committee throughout. He also served six years on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and served as its vice chairman.




In 1991 he sponsored legislation that directed fines from environmental disasters, such as the huge Ashland oil spill in the Ohio River in 1990, to be paid into a forestry fund, a wildlife habitat fund, and an Ohio River access-development fund.

Immediately before the director's posting Logan was president of the board of commissioners of Columbiana County on the Pennsylvania/West Virginia border. He was a commissioner six years.

During his tenure there, he was president of the Crossroads Resource and Conservation Development Council, one of nine such in the state and which oversees 12 counties. Among other things the council oversaw a six-year, $1 million watershed project on Wills Creek, part of the Muskingum watershed. Logan said he dealt with several ODNR divisions, including soil and water, mineral resources management, and wildlife.

He served five years as a gubenatorial appointee to the Solid Waste Advisory Council, which worked with the Ohio EPA among other things on recycling. As a commissioner he was active in overseeing a recycling program in a three-county solid waste district and also was involved in a federal program, Farm Pilot, a project dealing with manure management.

"I didn't realize how much history I had with the department until I was involved in the [Strickland] transition team," Logan said.

Speaking of transition, he speaks highly of his predecessor, Sam Speck. "We had a great, if short, transition period with Director Speck." Later in an interview, he spoke of the "great work Director Speck has done on water quality," citing among other accomplishments a watershed management program and an active role in the Great Lakes Commission [which Logan intends to continue].

"We have such wonderful resources on our North Coast."

The youngest of four boys his family lived in rural Dungannon, "an unincorporated old Sandy and Beaver Canal town." In the 1830s the Sandy and Beaver were dug to connect the Ohio and Erie Canal with the Ohio River at East Liverpool.

He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping, helping an elder brother run a trapline for muskrats on Cold Run. "I like to hunt [rabbits and birds] but haven't had the chance to do so in many years." But he likes to fish, especially with his seven-year-old son, Jonathan.

He has started his daughter, Julianna, 3 1/2, on fishing.

"This past summer she really got into fishing big with her Princess Pole." They fish from the dock at home at Guilford Lake where he and his wife, Melissa, have reared their family, which also includes son Matthew, 1.

Logan notes, however, that they will be moving to Columbus this summer.

Along the way he was appointed to the Little Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River Advisory Board in his home territory. "It's a great opportunity for me; I always had a great interest in it," he added, noting that his advisory position exposed him to yet another ODNR division, natural areas and preserves.

He also was honored with the Columbiana County Federation of Conservation Clubs outstanding service award.

"I have a natural connection with those folks. They explained wildlife management to me and I understand what goes behind the science of wildlife management."

Speaking of wildlife, the most highly visible, user-fee-driven division in the ODNR, Logan will have to appoint a new chief, given that Steve Gray has announced his retirement effective March 31.

Logan says he has made no decision on a Gray replacement, nor has he completed his review of the current or acting chiefs. But he stressed, "the chiefs are the backbone of this agency. I want to ensure to the best of our ability as a state and a department that they have the resources necessary to their jobs. They are definitely professionals that I respect."

His overarching philosophy as director will be an understanding he developed while serving on a Voinovich administration farmland preservation task force, and that is to try to manage the inherent conflicts surrounding land use.

"Embodied in the mission of the department is protection and wise use of natural resources for all. How we manage that conflict is the legacy we leave for future generations.

"Certainly we're going to mine coal in this state," Logan said, citing a resource-use with potential conflicts.

"How we do it is the legacy we're going to leave." Still, he notes, that a strong, reliable energy base is fundamental to economic development, a Strickland administration priority.

"Forestry management is another issue I want to focus on," the new director said, noting that past experience has demonstrated to him a lack of uniformity in the way county auditors apply CAUV - current agricultural use value - to land. "We need to make sure through public policy that everyone understands the value of managing our forests."

In the end a tale Logan tells about home at Guilford Lake may best demonstrate where he is coming from as ODNR director. Guilford is a shallow lake, he explains, and it annually is drawn down.

He uses the drawdown as an opportunity to pick up exposed shoreline trash and litter with his son and daughter.

"We need to leave places where we are better than we found them."

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