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Published: Saturday, 9/25/2004

Nature book takes stock of diversity in area's biology

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Homeowners in the Oak Openings region will be given this guide to encourage its preservation. Homeowners in the Oak Openings region will be given this guide to encourage its preservation.
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The average homeowner in western Lucas County likely has never heard of Goat's Rue, much less known what the multiheaded plant with white or lilac flowers looks like.

And the rare Dwarf Dandelion probably will be dismissed as a nuisance similar to its taller cousin.

But members of various nature preservation groups hope that those plants and more will be recognized as important species after residents thumb through a new guide to the Oak Openings region.

Not only will homeowners possibly recognize the vegetation, but perhaps begin planting them.

The latest effort to preserve one of Ohio's most biologically diverse areas comes in the form of a 62-page guide full of glossy photos of plants, animals, and insects.

Living in the Oak Openings: A Homeowner's Guide to one of the World's Last Great Places will be distributed to the thousands of people living within the more than 110-square-mile area known as Oak Openings.

"When we talk about preserving the Oak Openings, we mean various things. One of course is the [Toledo Area] Metroparks' effort to purchase property," said Scott Carpenter, a park spokesman. "But there are also other things that homeowners can do to preserve their own property, like planting. It's good to explain to people where they live."

Working together as the Green Ribbon Initiative, members of various nature groups have made it their mission to preserve the sandy five-mile-wide expanse of land that stretches 22 miles from southern Monroe County through western Lucas County and into portions of Fulton and Henry counties. The groups include the metroparks, Ohio Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Black Swamp Conservancy, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The collaborative is looking for volunteers to go door-to-door with the books and explain to homeowners why the area where they live is so special.

Ten thousand copies of the book were produced using a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/Great Lakes National Program Office. Several hundred copies already have been distributed.

"The message for the average citizen is that the Oak Openings is a unique area of our country that is right here in Toledo's backyard," said Terry Seidel, director of real estate and land management for the Ohio Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. "Many people live within this ecosystem. It's not just nature separated from people. It's nature and people together."

The thinking behind the book is two-fold, organizers said. Not only do preservationists hope residents will re-establish native species on their property; they'd like property owners to think of nature groups when it comes time to sell their property.

Portions of undeveloped land in the Oak Openings region is owned by the metroparks, the Nature Conservancy, and the state. Metroparks officials have bought land in the region - including about 80 acres recently - with funds from a land acquisition levy approved by voters in 2002.

Jan Hunter, program coordinator for the Green Ribbon Initiative and co-owner of a nursery in Bowling Green that specializes in native plants, said it's not too late to save the natural resource from development, but the clock is ticking.

"There are so many people who live in Oak Openings that don't know it," she said. "They think Oak Openings is a park. They don't realize that it is their backyard."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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