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About Ohio Natural Areas & Preserves

State Nature Preserves

The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves is responsible for identifying, acquiring, and managing lands in Ohio that represent examples of Ohio’s natural landscape types, natural vegetation, and geological history. These lands are then dedicated as State Nature Preserves. Most dedicated preserves are owned by the State, however, several are owned and managed by local park districts, land trusts, and private individuals. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves to ensure articles of dedication are upheld for each State Nature Preserves.

After passage of the Natural Areas Act in 1970, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources began the task of acquiring and dedicating State Nature Preserves. In 1976, the Natural Areas Act was amended to create the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. As of 2014, a total of 136 State Nature Preserves and natural areas have been added to the state-wide system. These areas include some of the finest remnants of Ohio’s natural heritage. A small portion of these areas are so fragile that no visitor facilities have been developed and require a free permit for access [pdf 82kb].

Funding for the administration of the preserve system is provided by general revenue funds from the Ohio General Assembly. Preserve access facilities, invasive species control, and land acquisition is funded through donations made to “Natural areas” via the Ohio income tax return.

The Preserve Mangers are the front line staff of The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. Scattered across the state, these men and women are responsible for daily upkeep of user facilities, ecological management, and public programs on State Nature Preserves. A small group of central office staff are based at the ODNR offices in Columbus. The Division relies on administrative support from the ODNR Division of Parks and Recreation.

Each year a variety of interpretive programs and guided hikes are presented regularly at the preserves. Scheduled events are posted on our calendar and Facebook page. Special arrangements for a guided program and additional parking for groups can be made with the preserve managers.

Endangered and Threatened Plants

In addition to dedicating and managing State Nature Preserves, the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves is responsible for maintaining Ohio’s list of Endangered and Threatened Plants. Every two years, the Ohio Rare Plant Committee convenes to make suggestions to the list of rare plants. The Division’s botanists scour the state each growing season, searching for populations of Ohio’s rare plants.


The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves is also responsible for administration of Ohio’s Cave Law. Beginning in 2007, the Division and the Wittenberg University Speleological Society initiated a four-year update of the Ohio Cave Survey.