Located in the rolling hills of rural Belmont County, Dysart Woods is the largest remnant of the ancient forests that once covered 95% of Ohio. To walk through Dysart woods is truly a moving experience, one is immediately awe struck by the imposing beauty of 400-500 year old towering oak trees gentling swaying in the breeze. The majestic forests of Dysart woods were once a part of the Dysart family farm, but in 1966 the 455-acre farm was bought by the Ohio University to use as a land laboratory. It was widely believed that Dysart woods would be protected from logging and mining forever when Ohio University purchased the land, but that all changed in 1988 when the Ohio Valley Coal Company approached Ohio University about mining under Dysart Woods. How could they do that you ask? Well, it seems that before the Dysart family sold the land to Ohio University they sold the mineral rights under the land to Ohio Valley Coal. Here begins the saga of Dysart Woods.

In mid-August, after 15 years of litigation, the Ohio Division of Mineral Resource Management (ODMR) granted Ohio Valley Coal permission to undermine all three of the old-growth areas of Dysart Woods. While the ODMR claims that there will be no subsidence (cave in) from this mining, advocates for preserving Dysart Woods disagree. According to Dysart Defenders Coordinator Chad Kister, “that (claim) is an absolute lie based on proven examples of room and pillar subsidence of the #8 Pittsburgh Coal seam throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.” Dysart Defenders and the Buckeye Forest Council have stated that they will appeal the permit, and they are demanding that Ohio University do the same. In response to the issuance of this permit the Ohio University Ecology Committee, which is the environmental think-tank of OU comprised of a majority of administrators, passed a resolution requesting that OU appeal the permit. As of this time OU President Robert Glidden has yet to declare whether he will instruct OU attorneys to appeal the permit. All interested parties have only 30 days in which to appeal the permit and due to pro-industry bias in Ohio law, mining can continue even if the permit is under appeal.

“Now is the time for heavy oversight and attention of this critical issue,” Kister said. “It has been a long, long struggle. But these are, unquestionably the final days, and this is the final permit that would destroy this great forest.” If the legal system fails to protect Dysart Woods from the Ohio Valley Coal Co. it will be up to citizens to stop the destruction of this ancient forest by any means necessary. If you are outraged by the persistent desire of Ohio Valley Coal to destroy our natural heritage give them a call at: 614-926-9112. Or contact OU President Robert Glidden at (740) 593-1804, gliddenr@ohio.edu. For more info on Dysart Woods click on www.dysartwoods.org

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