by John Ritzenthaler, Ohio Audubon
The effort to protect a substantial portion of the Little Darby Creek watershed in a wildlife refuge has stalled. The Darby is a national and state scenic river about 25 miles west of downtown Columbus. Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, along with a host of other supporters, maintain that the best way to protect the Darby is by purchasing and preserving large tracts of land. Delaying tactics by government representatives and community members have resulted in non-action on the proposal. Some landowners within the proposed refuge boundaries have placed deed restrictions on 18,000 acres of their land, intending to block any sale to U.S.F.W.S.
Senator DeWine is leading the effort to find a compromise that will adequately protect the Darby and satisfy landowners that the federal government will be minimally involved. Possibilities for alternative plans include establishing buffers and federal tree planting programs.
The struggle for local versus federal control, farming versus land for wildlife, stable land values versus inflated development prices, resource protection by local forces versus government managed resource conservation continues. Regional Director of U.S.F.W.S. Bill Hartwig maintains that they are still very interested in protecting the Little Darby and realize that there is a lot of support for the refuge in the Columbus area, but there are a number of factors continuing to delay things. The potential value of land for development may in the end outweigh the actual value of the biodiversity of the Darby.