Standing Up for Ohio State Parks

from Wildlife Promise

Tracy SabettaPost was written by Tracy Sabetta, pictured here with her daughter. Tracy leads the outreach to NWF supporters in Ohio. You can reach her at tsabetta@initiativeohio.com.

You know what they say about the best laid plans, right?

Conservation leaders and outdoor enthusiasts decided to bring our case proposals to drill for oil and natural gas in Ohio state parks to the people’s house yesterday.

We were well-prepared to stage a “camp in” on the lawn of the Ohio Statehouse to send a clear message to lawmakers:  If drilling is going to keep us from camping in our state parks, then we will have to camp right here in your front yard.

Picture from Tracy Sabetta

Ohio citizens gather at the State Capitol to oppose drilling in state parks

Then the skies opened up, and the rain poured down…and poured down…and poured down.
Concerns about muddy conditions on the lawn forced our campers inside, but did not dampen our spirits.

The, “We Love Our Parks, We Love Clean Water,” event was still a  great success.  Volunteers from across Ohio crowded into the basement of the Ohio Statehouse with their fishing poles, picnic baskets and lawn chairs, and proceeded to camp in one of the busiest areas of state government.

Staff and volunteers circulated petitions and distributed information to everyone who walked through the area, including nearly every member of the committee currently hearing the bill in the House of Representatives.  Campers spread blankets on the floor of the Statehouse and opened their sack lunches—inviting the legislators to join them!

The event was capped off with a rousing press conference where legislators were offered a second opportunity to publicly declare which state parks, state nature preserves, and state scenic rivers in their local legislative district they would vote to keep closed from oil and gas drilling or would vote to “convert from natural parks to industrial parks” and open up to extraction.

“As a state legislator, I understand that it is my duty to protect the health and welfare of the people of Ohio,” said State Representative Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo).  “With so many uncertainties facing us with these drilling proposals, we’re going to have to have answers before we open up and really put the future of our state parks at risk.  Eleven million Ohioans expect their parks to remain pristine, gorgeous, protected.”

Speakers at the press conference included the Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio League of Women Voters, Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, and seven legislators opposed to drilling.  Media coverage has been great with three TV stations, two radio stations, and six newspapers reporting on the event.  Even the lobbying from the Ohio Oil and Gas Association watched from the background!

Now, it is crunch time.  The bill is slated to be voted out of committee on Tuesday of next week, and the full House will cast their votes on Wednesday.  Drilling opponents are ready—we are hitting the telephones and working hard to keep this issue in the media.

So while we did not get to pitch our tents on the Statehouse lawn as expected, we did make the best of a soggy day to tell our legislators that their drilling proposals are all wet!

To see press coverage of the event, click here!