Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representatives Brad Wenstrup (OH-2), Troy Balderson (OH-12), and Bill Johnson (OH-6) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore raising concerns over the recently announced plan to change the name of Ohio’s Wayne National Forest to the Buckeye National Forest. The forest, which is located in each of the Representatives’ congressional districts, covers a quarter million acres of land in southeast Ohio and is named after General Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War general and Founding Father of the United States.
The letter questions the renaming of the forest, and it draws attention to the lack of local engagement and rushed public comment period.
“While we have general concerns with removing Anthony Wayne as the namesake of the forest,”the Representatives wrote, “and whether it is worth the $400,000 price tag, we would like additional information as to why, after 70 years, the decision to rename the forest was done with little to no community involvement. As you know, the U.S. Forest Service provided only a 15-day public engagement period on whether the proposed name, Buckeye National Forest, ‘would be unacceptable.’”
The Representatives call for increased transparency and ample opportunity for local communities to voice their opinion. Specifically, they request the Forest Service:
Extend the public comment period to hear local residents’ perspective on the proposed name and solicit alternative names for the forest;
Commit to community forums with local residents in southeast Ohio to explain why the Forest Service believes it is appropriate to change the name of the forest;
Meet with local leaders and elected officials to solicit their feedback on changing he name of the forest;
Provide the local communities with detailed information on why the Forest Service believes it is in the community’s best interest to remove Anthony Wayne as the namesake of the forest and provide information on the procedure for selecting a new name; and
Provide a justification as to why renaming the forest is a responsible use of taxpayer dollars.