Editor’s Note: This letter is being submitted on behalf of the Athens Conservancy in advance of National Public Lands Day, which is observed this year on Saturday, Sept. 28.

The forest where I first fell in love with creeks, crickets and tracking deer is now a developed subdivision on the fringes of Appalachian Ohio. There are houses where my brothers and I roamed through the woods with my dad, and the forest is cleared.

No other children will make the kind of memories we made there; no more bonds will be forever forged with trees and wind and water. The animals who lived there have long since moved away, or died for lack of habitat. This kind of development is one of the biggest threats to the natural world.

Land preservation, whether we are talking about public or private land, is no glamorous task. Deeds must be checked, titles signed, deals negotiated, surveys completed. Grants must be written to cover the cost of purchasing land.

The Athens Conservancy is our local land preservation organization, and is run by a volunteer board of directors that has been responsible for preserving 2,584 acres (about 4 square miles, approximately the size of Strouds Run State Park) since its inception in 2002. There is an absurd amount of life and diversity in these preserved forests, and endless opportunities to find a connection with the natural world that will persist forever.

Though we humans have given ourselves — and often earned — a bad reputation for environmental stewardship, we also have the power to positively impact the landscape.

We protect forests and help them recover from past abuses by replanting native species. We can grow native medicinal herbs like ginseng and goldenseal, thus preserving these species while also making them into important medicine.

This, I believe, cuts to the core of what it means to be truly human: to take what we need from the land in ways that are beneficial to other species.

In this way, being a part of the Athens Conservancy helps me to exercise my humanity.

You can learn more about the Athens Conservancy online at www.athensconservancy.org and you can keep up on AC projects by following the organization on Instagram and Facebook.

The Athens Conservancy is in need of volunteers to build and maintain trails, remove invasive species, and help document the biodiversity on our preserves. The conservancy needs those willing to help strengthen the organization and ensure that Southeast Ohio communities will have places to explore the natural world for many, many generations.

Joe Brehm

Member, Athens Conservancy Board of Directors

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