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ODNR Director Announces New Natural Areas and Preserves Chief

Posted on 3/27/2019 by State Nature Preserves

COLUMBUS, OH - Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz named Jeff Johnson as Chief of the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves on March 20, 2019. Johnson brings nearly 25 years of experience working for the department.

Johnson began his career with ODNR as a seasonal maintenance worker for the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves after college. Since that time, he has served in a variety of roles, from naturalist to park manager at Hocking Hills State Park. No matter his assignment, he has maintained his commitment to protect Ohio’s rich ecological history.

“The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves works every day to protect Ohio’s most precious, unique, and rare natural resources,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “Jeff’s passion and expertise will be key to our ability to protect Ohio’s natural beauty and biological integrity for generations to come.”

Johnson takes on the task of guiding the division through a rebuilding process and return it and its programs to national prominence. He will also oversee the return of the Scenic Rivers Program as an integral part of the division. Daily operations include protecting Ohio's rare and endangered species, unique geological features and threatened ecosystems, and Ohio’s 15 scenic rivers. The efforts of the staff will focus on increasing public outreach through educational programs for visitors as well as working with our school systems to teach future generations about the importance of conservation. Johnson will also increase the state's efforts on managing invasive species.

Johnson holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Ohio University. He resides with his wife on a small farm in Fairfield County.

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 sites, dedicated as State Nature Preserves, protect more than 30,000 acres of land that have ecological significance. In addition, the 15 designated Scenic Rivers found across the state protect a total of 831 miles of designated stream corridor and an additional 6,000 acres of streamside forests and fields. These preserves and scenic rivers together serve as sanctuaries for many of Ohio’s rare plants and animals.


ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.