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Southeast Ohio Updates from the Field – March

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Letter from the Regional Director:

OEC Southeast Ohio: March 2023 Updates

I write to you on a sunny afternoon in Athens County, where despite the confusion and chaos of recent weather, Spring Equinox has officially passed, forest ephemerals are in full bloom, and the Red-Winged Blackbirds have returned, adding to the chorus of Spring Peepers and wood frogs reverberating through the wetlands. Like the blossoming maples and mulberries, and sprouting ramps, these seasonal rhythms bring me hope and comfort in the midst of uncertainty.

The strength, beauty, and resilience of our region is reflected in the unfurling of the springtime, and in the faces of all the people lending their creativity, brilliance, energy, and passion to the preservation and revitalization of our region, day after day. I hope you’re able to take many moments to rest and revel in the wonders of this spectacular place we call home.

With gratitude,

Molly Jo Stanley
Southeast Ohio Regional Director

Regional Events & Opportunities:

Like the awakening forest, our region is bursting with the energy of event season. Be sure to take advantage of the abundant opportunities to explore our region by foot, bicycle, or boat, and to enjoy our amazing local food system as regional farmers markets like those in Shawnee, and Meigs County, and the Chesterhill Produce Auction reopen.  (Of course, you can always visit the Athens Farmers Market, voted #1 in Ohio in 2022)!

Seed Saving Workshop

April 14, 2023 | 3-5 PM

Trouvaille Farm (12118 Rainbow Lake Road Athens, OH 45701)

Learn the art of seed saving from a local expert at the beautiful Trouvaille Farm. Hosted by Rural Action. Get your tickets today.

Athens Conservancy Wildflower Walk

April 15, 2023 | 2 PM

Beaumont-Salina Trailhead

The Athens Conservancy promises a carpet of spring wildflowers at their  Bluebell Preserve in April. You can join them for an easy walk to observe and explore these beautiful spring offerings. More information.

Community Input: Athens County Hazard Mitigation Plan

April 24, 2023 | 6:30-7:30 PM

Athens Public Library (30 Home St, Athens, OH 45701)

We must ensure our communities and ecosystems are prepared for the continuing challenges we face in the midst of climate change. Join the Athens County Climate Change Advisory Council and add your voice to the revision of the Hazard Mitigation Plan.

OHIO Earth Day Celebrations

April 27th, 2023 | 12-4 PM

Walter Hall Rotunda (25 S Green Dr, Athens, OH 45701)

Join Ohio University to celebrate Earth Day Every Day! Partnering with campus and community organizations, they have plenty of opportunities to get involved throughout Earth Month, on Earth Day, and beyond. The ultimate celebration will kick off at noon on April 27. Discover all the fun ways to celebrate Earth Day Every Day.

There’s still time to nominate local leaders and innovators for the yearly Sustainability Awards. Submit your nomination today!

Spring in the County

April 30, 2023 | 3:30-7:00 PM with hikes beginning at 1:30 PM

Camp Oty’Okwa (24799 Purcell Rd, South Bloomingville, OH 43152)

At this annual fundraiser and community celebration at and for the spectacular Camp Oty’Okwa, guests will experience spring in the Hocking Hills. Take a hike, visit with friends and enjoy music and delicious food. Snag your tickets!

Forest Fest at Solid Ground School 

May 6, 2023 | 12-3 PM

Save the date! Organized by the students, this inaugural mini festival will feature farm-to-table food, adult races, youth obstacle course, student craft sales, and of course, a celebration of the land we love!

Regional Updates

Calling on the U.S. EPA to protect our air

Abandoned oil and gas wells pose a threat to our air and water through methane emissions and potential for crude oil and other spills into our environment. In Ohio, there are more than 20,000 of these old wells, and 6 of the top 10 Ohio counties with the most “orphan” wells are in Southeast Ohio. In this Columbus Dispatch op-ed, I share this and other stunning information about the impact oil and gas wells have on Appalachian Ohio and call on the U.S. EPA to take action.

Spreading the word on white oak in our National Forest

On February 22, I made the trip up to Central Ohio to share with OEC members about the amazing White Oak and the species’ importance to our Appalachian history and region. This amazing tree, a keystone species in our Eastern deciduous forest that once encompassed the entire state of Ohio, provides habitat and food for numerous species, such as the American Black Bear, Cerulean Warblers, the endangered Indiana Bat, and hundreds of species of butterflies and moths. White Oaks also live in symbiosis with an underground network of fungi that help keep the forest healthy and sequester carbon in the soil. The local grassroots effort to gain a Backcountry designation for the Wayne National Forest provides a framework to protect White Oak ecosystems in this portion of the Forest, allowing them to continue their recovery   and achieve their old-growth potential. When stewarded properly, White Oaks can live well beyond 300 years! Already, 140+ area-stakeholders have signed onto the petition, along with OEC members across Ohio who understand the benefits that thriving outdoor ecosystems and outdoor recreation based economies can bring to our region and our state! Be sure to sign the petition to share your support for this important designation.

Planning for climate change in Athens County

On March 22, I was joined by OEC’s Energy Justice Fellow Dion Mensah and Clean Energy Attorney Karin Nordstrom to present findings from our report on the Municipal Cost of Climate Change. By 2100, Athens County and the Southeast Ohio region are likely to experience considerable impacts from climate change. Municipal governments will face increased costs from projects such as flood mitigation, storm recovery, bridge and road repair, and more. During our meeting at the Athens Public Library, we discussed the challenges we are facing and how to develop asset-based solutions to integrate into local and regional planning. To continue the conversation and plug into this work, be sure to join the Athens County Climate Change Advisory Council on April 24 and add your voice to the revision of the Hazard Mitigation Plan. 

OEC Updates

Doing our part in East Palestine

Since the devastating Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio in early February, we have been working with community leaders to monitor the impact of the train derailment and toxic chemical release on the community, and develop long-term regulatory and policy solutions to ensure an environmental disaster like this never happens again. We stand in solidarity with our partners fighting for transparency, accountability, and justice. To learn more and for an updated timeline of our work, please visit our dedicated webpage.

Continuing the call for HB 6 repeal after Householder found guilty

Early in March, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chairperson Matt Borges were found guilty for their role in the largest public corruption case in Ohio history — a complex scheme to pass House Bill 6. This decision is an important step towards justice and rectifying the wrongs that FirstEnergy and other utility companies have perpetrated on Ohioans. However, justice will not truly be served until Ohioans are no longer bailing out old, dirty coal plants on their monthly electric bills, and until Ohioans can trust that their lawmakers and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio are looking out for them, and not corrupt special interests. We won’t stop until HB 6 has been fully repealed and Ohio has an affordable, clean energy economy that benefits everyone, not just fossil fuel companies and utilities. We will keep working until we have energy justice in Ohio. We hope you will continue to support our work for energy justice. 

You’re invited to our May 20 Green Gala

The Green Gala provides the unique opportunity for environmentalists around the state to come together, build our path ahead, and celebrate the accomplishments that bring us hope and heart. This year, we will be celebrating environmental champions from across the state, including: the Buckeye Trail Association, Cuyahoga County Director of Sustainability Mike Foley, Cincinnati City Councilmember Meeka Owens, and River Valley Organizing. 

Join together with hundreds of other committed members of the environmental movement to network, collaborate, and be inspired at this indoor and outdoor event. Heavy appetizers and beverages will be served. Register online before May 12!

Check out current openings at the OEC and our partner organizations.