With tax season just kicking off, this is a good time to remind Ohioans of a simple way they can painlessly help out the state's wildlife and habitat.
On your state income tax forms, there is a small box labeled "Nature Preserves, Scenic Rivers and Endangered Species."
By checking this box you can earmark a portion of any tax refund you have coming to you to special projects handled by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
For example, there are more than a dozen Ohio state nature preserves where old stands of trees, some among the most mature in Ohio and up to 400 years old, have been protected through the use of these contributed funds.
Portions of taxpayers' refunds have gone to help support the state nature preserves these trees grow in as well as to a wide range of plant and animal populations and endangered species and fragile ecosystems that grow in or around these trees.
Locally, the Kyle Woods State Nature Preserve in Mahoning County benefits from these types of funds.
Situated off Tippecanoe Road, about a 1/2 mile south of U.S. Route 224, Kyle Woods can be accessed off the turnpike road off Tippecanoe.
Charlotte McCurdy, the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves district manager in charge of Kyle Woods, said that the 80-plus acre preserve has lost a lot of old, big trees in recent years. "We lost a lot of old growth due to storms," she said. "There is a lot of new growth there."
However, she added, there remains significant old growth trees in the preserve and it is worthwhile to venture out on the Kyle Woods trail system to see them.
The preserve is home to mainly beech and sugar maples, but there are many other species represented. According to the state, it is a much more complex wooded area than similar woodlots in Northeast Ohio.
Some of the more unusual species to be found in Kyle Woods include cucumber magnolia, wild black cherry, black gum and several species of oaks and ashes. There are even some white oaks that are more than 300 years old.
McCurdy said that venturing significantly into the park will reward visitors with the older growth trees.
About Kyle Woods
Kyle Woods was given as a gift to the ODNR in 1977 as a gift by Josephine Kyle, the daughter of former area Judge Arthur Kyle. It has basically sat undisturbed by humans since about 1903 and is considered a large tract of the original forests that once covered all of Mahoning County.
Early spring is one of the best times to visit these preserves and see some of Ohio's oldest trees, which are easily identified before their greenery creates a canopy that will darken the forest floor. Until then, colorful wildflowers benefit from the sunlight streaming through the still-open canopy.
The best times to observe the preserve's big trees is in late winter and early spring before the canopy of leaves has fully developed. Kyle Woods is also considered a prime birding site in this area.
Other preserves that have benefited in Ohio include 200-acre Hueston Woods State Nature Preserve in southwest Ohio, 321-acre Goll Woods State Nature Preserve, believed to be the least disturbed woodlot remaining in northwest Ohio, the 206-acre Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve in Wayne County, Lawrence Woods in Hardin County, Fowler Woods in Richland County, Sears Woods in Crawford County, Clear Fork Gorge in Ashland County, Gross Woods in Shelby County and Davey Woods in Champaign County.
When you go to get your taxes done, or if you do them yourself, remember to check the box on line 24 (1040) or line 16 (1040EZ) on the state tax return form.
If you don't have a tax refund coming, you may also just send a check to the ODNR Division of Natural Areas & amp; Preserves at 2045 Morse Road, Columbus 43229.
There are other state programs that benefit from funds for wildlife and habitat protection and acquisition. Those programs include the bald eagle and trumpeter swan programs, the snowshoe hare reintroduction program, North American river otter program, peregrine falcons and the Karner blue butterfly. The species helped are about as diverse as those who contribute.
Donations also may be made in memoriam to a family member or friend, and the purchase of conservation license plates garners funds for the state.
All of these programs can be examined more fully on the ODNR's Web Site, www.dnr.ohio.gov/wildlife/Feature/ResourcesF/donations.htm