MEDINA – Preserving nature’s beauty is a unique calling and not many people are better at it than the staff of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.
The nonprofit organization reached a significant milestone last year when it permanently preserved its 55,000th acre of natural and urban land. Western Reserve is one of only a handful of land conservancies in the nation that preserves natural and urban land and it has now permanently preserved more land than any other local land conservation nonprofit in Ohio.
CEO Rich Cochran said the agency now has preserved about 56,000 acres, which is more than the combined holdings of Cleveland Metroparks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
“We’re proud of our what we’ve done,” Cochran said. “I think we’re one of the leading land conservancies in the country and the people of northeast Ohio should take pride in that.”
Headquartered in Moreland Hills, the land conservancy works in 23 counties from Sandusky Bay to the Pennsylvania border and from Lake Erie to Wayne County. It is the only organization in Ohio that focuses on conserving natural land, farmland and urban land. The land conservancy now stewards more than 740 properties consisting of 56,216 acres across the region, including the preservation of more than 240 farms and the creation of more than 170 public parks and publicly-owned preserves.
The organization has a field office at the Medina Marsh Conservation Center in Medina Township which is one of several natural areas the organization has helped to get conservation easements on in Medina County. The land conservancy has worked with the Medina County Park District and individual landowners to establish conservation and agriculture easements that prevent development and keep it in a natural state. It has also worked with the city of Cleveland to plant more than 12,000 trees there since 2014.
According to Cochran, there is good reason for his organization to work so hard at preserve the natural world around us and some of those reasons have some surprisingly practical benefits.
“We are so passionate about our work because we know it is essential to human health,” he said. “All living things are a reflection of their environment. A healthy environment leads to a healthy community and ultimately – healthy people.”
Cochran cites studies that show the healthiest cities – mentally, physically and economically – have higher percentages of tree canopies. He said more than 40 years of scientific studies prove that being in nature improves human health and wellbeing.
“These experiences make us healthier, happier, and smarter,” he said.
According to Cochran, the organization operates on an annual budget of $5 million that comes from public grants and private philanthropy.
The organization has expanded its work in recent years to include reforestation programs in cities like Cleveland and Youngstown but also continues to look for undeveloped land in Medina County and elsewhere that it can preserve for future generations.
Cochran encourages Medina County residents to contact the Western Reserve Land Conservancy if they have land of their own or know of land they think is worth preserving.
More details about how the organization works and contact information can be found at the web site www.wrlandconservancy.org.