Harmful Algal Bloom in Western Basin of Lake Erie: September 20, 2017. Photo by Aerial Associates Photography, Inc. by Zachary Haslick.

Addressing agal blooms

By Dan Armitage, Buckeye Sportsman

Lake Erie anglers, boaters and environmentalists are among those in favor of a landmark proposed consent decree that will serve as a roadmap for federal and state regulators to address western Lake Erie’s chronic algal blooms.

This case was brought against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by the Environmental Law Policy Center on the grounds that the EPA has failed to live up to the goals of the 1972 Clean Water Act by not exerting pressure on Ohio for repeated violations of the act. U.S. District Judge James Carr has been hearing arguments in the case, filed on Feb. 7, 2019.

“While we believe the timelines in the proposed settlement should be tighter as the provisions should have been realistically completed a long time ago,” said Michelle Burke, president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. “We are in favor of Judge Carr’s actions and the prospect that this will finally lead to the necessary corrective actions to protect our lake.”

The eight-page consent decree can be found in the Federal Register. According to the proposed settlement, the timetable mandates the following:

• A Dec. 31 deadline for the Ohio EPA to finish writing and release for public comment its draft version of a proposed TMDL.

• A June 30, 2023, deadline for the Ohio EPA to finalize the document followed by 30 days for the U.S. EPA to approve or disapprove of the state’s submission.

• An additional five months if the U.S. EPA determines what Ohio submits is inadequate. If that happens, the federal government must write and impose its own TMDL within that five-month period.

• A joint status report from the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA must be filed with U.S. District Court every six months until the proposed consent decree is terminated.

Consent decrees are mutual agreements between disputing parties and not a verdict against one or another, however Judge Carr states that the plaintiffs are to be considered “prevailing parties” and his court will retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms and conditions of this Consent Decree.

For additional information, contact Thomas Glazer of the U.S. EPA’s Water Law Office at (202) 564-0908 or email him at glazer.thomas@epa.gov.

State forest bridle, APV trails close for season

Bridle trails on most of Ohio’s state forests and all-purpose vehicle (APV) areas at Pike, Richland, and Perry state forests are closed for the winter season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural 

Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry. Bridle trails closed Nov. 28 and APV areas closes on Dec. 12. 

The state forest APV areas stay open longer than bridle trails because horseback riding during deer gun seasons can cause a user conflict and the areas remain open during regular deer gun season to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to have greater access to the state forests with APV trails. 

“Bridle trails and APV areas are very popular with visitors to Ohio’s state forests. That’s why it is important that the Division of Forestry manage these trails in a way that allows them to be sustained for the long term,” said Dave Lane, ODNR Division of Forestry Assistant Chief. “The Division of Forestry is implementing these seasonal closures to help minimize traffic during the wettest months of the year in order to protect these trails.” 

During this seasonal closure period, trails can be more safely maintained by forest staff and organizations with approved volunteer agreements. Strong summer storms in 2022 had a major impact on some forests’ trails and those areas will receive attention during the closure. Signage will be installed at parking areas and trailheads designating the trails as closed. 

Bridle trails will reopen for riding on April 1, 2023, and APV areas will reopen April 7, 2023. Bridle trail rides can be requested during the closed season by completing a Special Use Permit (SUP) application and submitting it to the local forest manager at least 5 days prior to the event. 

Maumee State Forest’s bridle trails and APV areas are not affected by the seasonal closures and will remain open year-round. The seasonal closures have been proposed in previous annual state forest work plans and have received public input.

Ridding state forests of invasives

Speaking of state forests, the ODNR Division of Forestry is intensifying efforts to control non-native invasive trees and shrubs within Ohio’s state forests, with two major species of concern being tree of heaven and bush honeysuckle. 

Tree of heaven is a fast-growing tree that can produce more than 300,000 wind-dispersed seeds per year.  Tree of heaven frequently colonizes disturbed sites in Ohio woodlands and suppresses the growth of native trees. Bush honeysuckle is an aggressive invader of abandoned fields, roadsides, woodland edges, and the interiors of open woodlands. Bush honeysuckle out-competes more desirable native woodland species, and can form pure, dense thickets that limit growth of other vegetation. 

“We are committed to implementing a more aggressive strategy to control invasive plant species in Ohio’s state forests,” said Dan Balser, chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. “Hiring new staff to specifically manage invasives in the field is one important step in this effort.” 

To learn about those and other job opportunities at the forestry division, visit forestry.ohiodnr.gov.

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