There is an incredibly biologically special place, right here in Ohio. It's called the Highlands Nature Sanctuary. It had been known by its current name for 5-6 years. It's located in south central Ohio, in which (at least) three major bio-regions exist. It includes land where the glaciers came through, and stopped, (depositing seeds of plant species usually found further north), the western front of the Appalachian foothills, limestone bedrock of the west, and sandstone and shale of the east. All of these "edge" effects increase biodiversity exponentially-gifting the area with an extraordinarily high number of rare wildflowers, trees, and ferns. It is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the state, possibly in the country (ok, excluding the Everglades). Although the woodlands in this region have been timbered just as they have in the rest of the state, an unusually well-preserved assemblage of the original primeval forest's components remain intact.

The Sanctuary was started after the founders, (botanists), took a hike through the area, and slowly became more and more shocked and thrilled at the botanical diversity they were seeing (noticing plant species that the rest of us probably wouldn't have a clue were so rare to Ohio), and after struggling & failing to get state/government grants & such to try and save the area, went forward nonetheless, *using their own money*, and drumming up grass-roots donations, formed a not-for-profit entity to buy up as much land as possible. Neighboring land owners recently have noticed the difference their stewardship has made, and more and more of them have been offering to sell their adjoining land to the Sanctuary.

And it has made a difference. Here is an excerpt from a recent newsletter:

"Now that the Sanctuary is five years old, going on six, the healing forces of Nature that were unleashed at its inception are beginning to be noticeable. When we first started here, animals (other than birds) were present but in low numbers and very difficult to find. This spring there has been an incredible explosion in wildlife of all kinds - Rabbits and squirrels - the important base of the food pyramid - are back in pre-colonial numbers. We went five years without seeing even one salamander - but this year we have seen an abundant number of Jefferson, Ravine, Northern Two-Lined and Dusky Salamanders! Turtles and snakes can be seen again along the Rocky Fork Creek. And turkeys!!! The last flock we saw was 110."

The Coyote & Foxes are coming back, now that there is a large piece of land unbroken by civilization (almost 1200 acres so far). Here's a list of this year's notable bird sightings; Scarlet Tanagers, both Orchard & Baltimore Orioles, Acadian Flycatchers, Louisiana Water Thrushes, Yellow-throated Warblers, Rough-winged Swallows, Henslow's Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows.

The land they have acquired contains numerous gorges, ravines, rivers, streams & creeks, bubbling springs, sinkholes, and dozens of deep limestone caves. Twenty-three caves dot the region which has one of the highest cave densities in the state. The river's excellent water quality nurtures abundant fish and no less than a dozen freshwater clam species.

The old-growth forest that once covered half our continent is now Ohio rarest ecosystems. Because this region has never been open to large numbers of visitors, it remains in remarkable ecological health - sheltering an immense diversity of plant and animal species, including several that are rare or state-endangered.

If this interests you, please go see for yourself! The website address is

To keep human impact to a minimum, they want you to apply for a hiking or camping permit at least a couple weeks in advance, so they can limit the numbers of people on the property at any given time.