The globally rare Oak Openings region is a sandy strip of land located in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. At first glance it doesn’t seem like a grand or magnificent landscape.
The Oak Openings is designated by the Nature Conservancy as “One of America’s Last Great Places”, putting the region on par with the Florida Everglades and rain forests of the Northwest. The sensitive habitats here contain one-third of Ohio’s endangered plant species and are home to a host of rare animals.
The Toledo Area Metroparks, the Nature Conservancy, and the “Wild Ones” are just some of the groups working to preserve and restore the Oak Openings.
Of note are glacial sand dunes, wet prairie and some of the last remaining oak savanna habitats in the world. Oak savanna is known for its aesthetic appeal, with dappled light, flowers and grasses nestled between towering oaks. This habitat is particularly supportive to wildlife.
Many local residents have been part of initiatives to restore native plants and habitats such as prairie and oak savanna on their own private land. Property owners in both Lucas and Fulton County have re-established native plants such as Wild Blue Lupine, Little Bluestem, Blazing Star, Milkweed and Blue-eyed grass.
This in turn supports native animals such as Eastern Bluebirds, Red-shouldered hawks, Red-tail hawks, Bald eagles, Red-bellied woodpeckers, wild turkey and whitetail deer. Also the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly, the Eastern prairie fringed orchid and other Ohio listed animals such as the spotted turtle, Blanding’s turtle, lark sparrow and blue-spotted salamander.
Travelers from across the USA and around the world come here for migratory bird watching opportunities, photography and hiking. This represents millions of dollars to the Northwest Ohio economy.
Construction and operation of oil/gas pipelines would be harmful to these sensitive habitats. What damage could pipeline construction mean?
This area has unique geology and hydrology. Globally significant biological diversity is currently present in this area, but it is threatened by fragmentation, development, invasive plant species and changes in hydrology. Even tiny changes to these specialized habitats can result in significant outcomes – negative and positive.
The Oak Openings region has a unique variety of specialized soils that support rare plant communities. Trenching will disturb the soil layers. Changes in water flow and soil compaction may damage wetlands and wet prairie by restricting water or allowing too much.
Native plant communities would be hard to replace or restore. It can take years for individual plants to become established, and it can take decades for the matrix of relationships to become established. These plants cannot simply be “re-seeded” like grass.
Introduction of invasive species or water contamination and effects of de-watering are also concerns.
The currently filed (Spectra Energy) Nexus pipeline route would cut through the center of the Oak Openings – their route would disturb approximately 180 acres of the Oak Openings in Lucas and Fulton Counties (calculation is based on a 100 foot wide construction zone). Kinder Morgan Utopia also plans to trench through the Oak Openings region in Fulton County.
We continue to argue for routes that avoid the historic portion of the Oak Openings region.
Map of historic Oak Openings Region