The Ohio Department of Natural Resources welcomes visitors every day to state parks, forests, nature preserves, and wildlife areas in all of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Passage of the Capital Appropriations Bill (SB 310) provides the resources necessary for ODNR to manage and maintain those properties for enjoyment by future generations. ODNR is focusing its capital appropriations priorities on maintaining and upgrading state properties while protecting our state’s most critical resources to improve the quality of life for all people in Ohio.

Money allocated to the Division of Parks and Watercraft will be used to ensure safe stays for all guests at Ohio State Parks. ODNR will be modernizing lodges to keep all visitors warm and dry during their visit. Improvements include updating heating and cooling systems, roof repair, and other infrastructure projects to give people the stay they expect and deserve when enjoying these landmarks. Investments will also be made in trail improvements, campgrounds and cabins.

Funds dedicated to the Division of Wildlife are an investment in conservation and improved wildlife habitat, which leads to increased opportunities to fish, hunt, and enjoy wildlife in Ohio. Funding is provided in the bill to support significant improvements at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area including refurbishing the main dike and renovations at the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center.

This project will protect critical habitat for hunters and birders alike and provide a world-class experience for birders who visit to see Lake Erie’s rare and popular waterfowl. This bill also will also allow the Division of Wildlife to invest in the renovation of Ohio’s state fish hatcheries, which annually produce more than 40 million popular fish species enjoyed by Ohio anglers. Additional funding will be used to support improvements to Ohio’s shooting ranges so firearms enthusiasts and hunters have additional safe and accessible locations to sight-in firearms.

The ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves safeguards Ohio’s unique and rare natural resources. Moving forward, improvements to infrastructure will take center stage. A full dam rehabilitation project is slated for Jackson County’s Lake Katharine Nature Preserve, one of the most scenic lakes in Ohio. The much-needed upgrades include repairs to drain valves, spillways, and an increased storage capacity during flooding events. The work will be planned to minimally impact the unique ecology and access to the lake and hiking trails.

The ODNR Division of Forestry will be well prepared to make and keep state properties safe in the next fiscal year. Capital funding will allow for the purchase of heavy equipment that will be used to repair roads and aid in fire prevention and suppression tactics. Additional funding will allow for needed infrastructure improvements at Shawnee and Tar Hollow State Forests.

There will also be significant investment in upgrading and repairing dams on both park and wildlife properties.

• The ODNR Division of Wildlife is reminding Ohioans that recycled, live-cut Christmas trees can create shelter for Ohio wildlife including fish, birds, small mammals, and more.

Recycled live-cut Christmas trees make great habitat for fish structure, on both public and private waterways. Christmas trees are gathered by Division of Wildlife fisheries staff from recycling and drop-off programs for use as fish habitat. Trees are bundled together and weighted down so they sink to the lake’s bottom. Many species are attracted to this newly created habitat, including crappie, bluegill, and other panfish, as well as largemouth bass and saugeye.

A live-cut Christmas tree can also be recycled as the centerpiece of a wildlife-friendly brush pile. Place the tree in a desired location and stack limbs around it in a square arrangement, layering more brush until a desired height is reached. Cover the top with additional brush to create a unique and valuable shelter for small animals.

Songbirds, including northern cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches, travel in and out of brush piles for food, nesting, and to escape predators. Small mammals, including cottontail rabbits and chipmunks, also use brush piles for shelter and raising young.

Before disposing of a live-cut Christmas tree, remember to remove all trimmings including tinsel, garland, lights, and ornaments as these can be harmful to the environment and wildlife. Be sure to have proper permission before discarding your tree on public or private property. Discarding trees without permission could result in a litter violation.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

Water and Wings by Ken Parrott

Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.