Before Ohio was settled, the land was nearly all old-growth forest. But by the early 1900s, most of our forests had been completely cut down, leaving the state with only 10% forest cover. Ohio’s forest cover stands at about 31% today, but it is highly fragmented and very young. The state’s majestic old growth forests are gone, but they could return if we devote our public lands to their restoration.

Approximately 14% of Ohio’s forests are owned by the public (state, federal, and local government). Ohio’s publicly owned forests are our best hope for reestablishing relatively large tracts of old-growth forest habitat. They tend to be in relatively large tracts; tend to be relatively contiguous; and are in common, public ownership. These factors make them well suited for the recovery of interior, old-growth characteristics.

It can take between 150 to 500 years for an eastern hardwood forest to recover old-growth characteristics. The forest policy choices we make today will therefore determine whether, and to what extent, future generations of Ohioans can experience our forests’ true potential.

Ohio has 21 state forests covering more than 200,000 acres (about 0.7% of Ohio's total land). Our forests range in size from less than 500 acres to nearly 64,000 acres and are located in 21 Ohio counties.

We have one national forest, the Wayne National Forest, which covers more than 236,000 acres (about 0.8% of Ohio's land base).

While small in percentage, these public areas are vital because they provide the state with larger tracts of uninterrupted forestland than typically found on private land. Thus, public lands provide an opportunity to preserve and restore healthy and diverse forest ecosystems, while providing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

Securing the protection and recovery of Ohio’s forests is an important part of the OEC’s mission.