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A History and Purpose
A History and Purpose

Ohio Department of Natural Resources

The history of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is rich and varied, beginning with its creation by the Ohio Legislature in 1949.

At that time, the department was charged with the responsibility of formulating and putting into execution a long-term comprehensive plan for the development and wise use of the natural resources of the state, to the end that the health, happiness and wholesome enjoyment of life of the people of Ohio may be further encouraged.

A department of incredible diversity, ODNR owns and manages more than 800,000 acres of land, including 75 state parks, 21 state forests, 136 state nature preserves and 150 wildlife areas. The department also has jurisdiction over more than 120,000 acres of inland waters; 7,000 miles of streams; 481 miles of Ohio River; and 2.25 million acres of Lake Erie. In addition, ODNR licenses all hunting, fishing and watercraft in the state and the department is responsible for overseeing and permitting all mineral extraction, monitoring dam safety, managing water resources, mapping the state's major geologic structures and mineral resources and providing multiple outdoor grant programs to local communities.

Each division and office is unique in how they operate to fulfill the main mission of ODNR. The ODNR Division of Wildlife receives more than 97% of its funding through the sale of licenses, permits, federal reimbursements and donations. With the increase in oil and gas production since 2012, the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management has grown from a staff of 44 to more than 130, including inspectors, engineers, geologists and hydrogeologists. Divisions and offices also change over time to improve efficiency. For example, in 2016 the Division of Parks and Recreation merged with the Division of Watercraft since they had overlapping responsibilities.

Resource Management

Managing Ohio's resources is one of ODNR's primary responsibilities. This involves sustaining the productivity of Ohio's renewable natural resources such as timber and wildlife; promoting the wise use of Ohio's non-renewable resources such as oil and gas; and protecting Ohio's threatened and endangered natural resources such as rare plants and animals.

Ten of ODNR's divisions and offices are actively involved in resource management:

  • Coastal Management
  • Engineering
  • Forestry
  • Geological Survey
  • Mineral Resources Management
  • Natural Areas and Preserves
  • Oil and Gas Resources Management
  • Parks and Watercraft
  • Water Resources
  • Wildlife

Though each division typically has its own mandates and responsibilities, they often combine their efforts, working together on various management projects to achieve similar goals.

Recreation

Recreation -- perhaps what ODNR is best known for. Whether it's hiking, biking, camping, boating, hunting or fishing, ODNR provides leisure services and recreational opportunities to all Ohioans. With 21 state forests, 136 nature preserves, 75 parks and 150 wildlife areas, the activities are numerous and appealing. Four divisions provide these recreational opportunities:

  • Forestry
  • Natural Areas and Preserves
  • Parks and Watercraft
  • Wildlife

Regulation

Perhaps least recognized by the general public but of great importance is the role ODNR holds in protecting the health and safety of Ohio's citizens. ODNR enforces regulations, provides law enforcement and responds to and treats hazardous situations or substances. Seven divisions are responsible for regulation:

  • Engineering
  • Geological Survey
  • Mineral Resources Management
  • Oil and Gas Resources Management
  • Parks and Watercraft
  • Water Resources
  • Wildlife

ODNR is dedicated to developing and implementing policies that will have a far-reaching impact on the environment and our natural resources. It is an agency comprising incredible diversity with a vast understanding of the importance of partnerships with the public. Through these partnerships, ODNR has accomplished a greater balance between environmental conservation and economic growth for the state.