For the past 20 years, the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area in Trumbull County pretty much stayed the same size, almost 9,000 acres spread out between North Bloomfield and the northern end of Mosquito Creek Reservoir.
All that changed last year when a nearly 500-acre plot of land on the western end of the area was bought by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife -- the first significant addition to the area in more than two decades.
The new portion of the wildlife area will be formally dedicated at 6 p.m. Tuesday with a ceremony at the site. On hand to celebrate the acquisition will be state wildlife and national conservation organization officials, including Dr. Samuel W. Speck, director of the ODNR; Michael Budzik, chief of the ODNR's Division of Wildlife; Rob Keck, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation; and Tony SanGregory, Ducks Unlimited Inc. Ohio chairman, as well as many other officials, outdoor club members, a local high school band and others.
The NWTF was instrumental in the purchase of the property with a $200,000 donation toward the $1.3 million total price, and DU offered $65,000 from its Marsh program. Other donations included $53,378 from the Grand River Partners, Inc. -- a citizen-driven land trust working to protect the Grand River area.
This acquisition is significant because of where it is and what it is.
Heather Bond, a regional biologist with the Great Lakes-Atlantic Region of DU described it: "This 496-acre parcel of land is a mixture of cropland, wet woodland and wet meadow, and includes several opportunities for wetland restoration ... to improve habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife."
She added that the area is part of the Mosquito Creek-Grant River Focus Area of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and is within DU's Great Lakes Ecosystem Initiative as well as being located directly across from an 850-acre DU restoration completed in 1998.
She said that the parcel is an important addition to the MCWA, which has had to bear constant pressure from area development.
"Public ownership will protect existing habitat in perpetuity," she said. "The area also represents a large wetland restoration opportunity in an area of the state where high-quality wetlands are limited."
Jeff Herrick, manager of DOW's district three, concurred. "What's so attractive about this area is the chance to restore this great wetland. It will be a big, big project."
Herrick said the restoration will be done because a previous owner of the property drained the wetland for farming. Despite that, Herrick said, the land stayed wet.
He added that DU will be a major partner in the restoration efforts and that the NWTF donation represents one of that organization's largest amounts for a single project.
Bond also said that the wetland development project will add to improve the local habitat for wood ducks, mallards, black ducks, blue-winged teal and Canada geese.
The area also serves as an important migration area for many of the ducks that frequent northeast Ohio and is home to bald eagles, river otters, beaver, upland birds such as woodcock, ruffed grouse and ring-necked pheasant and wild turkey. And while most people would not see it as a beneficial creature, you can also find the endangered massasauga rattlesnake here.
Activities such as this acquisition also show just how important are the contributions of sportsmen to national conservation organizations.
The funds donated by DU and the NWTF toward this purchase came from the organizations' members, people like the average hunter, who pony up funds for banquets, memberships and what have you.
Specific portions of the funds paid into these groups by their members are set aside to buy property, build wetlands and related activities and are tangible evidence that individuals do have the power to affect changes to the environment in a positive way.