Condensed by Native Village
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says the state used mostly private and federal funding to secure a $15,100,000 purchase agreement for the Raccoon Ecological Management Area in Vinton County, home to the Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest.
Department Director Sean Logan says it is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the country. The state's largest known population of bobcats lives there, as do bears, timber rattlesnakes and rare birds and plants.
It's also home to more than 50 years of forest research.
Combined with nearby Zaleski State Forest, the area will have a conservation forest of more than 40,000 acres.
"It's one of the last great conservation opportunities in Ohio," said Josh Knights, executive director of the Nature Conservancy's Ohio office.
The last time Ohio created a state forest was in December 1998 with the designation of the 1,100-acre Beaver Creek State Forest in northeast Ohio. It was the 20th state forest.
The state hopes to finalize the purchase by July.