Drum beats, voices, music and applause echoed fiom the West Portico of Memorial Auditorium Tuesday afternoon as supporters of the Save Dysart Woods campaign asked Ohio University to take an official stand sup-porting the Dysart Defenders' "lands unsuitable petition" appeal, and to begin fundraising efforts to hire an expert hydrogeologist.
About 100 students and community members gathered for an hour to listen to speakers and music encouraging student and university involvement in the last crucial months of the long-running battle to protect Dysart Woods, an OU-owned section of raYe virgin forest in Eastern Ohio's Belmont County.
Dina Rudick1 president of the OU chapter of Dysart Defenders, called for OU to intervene on behalf of the group's petition to overturn the state's decision on a petition to declare Dysart Woods and most of its surrounding land unsuitable for mining.
Dysart Defenders wants the Ohio Division of Mines and Reclamation, which regulates coal mining in Ohio, to keep the Ohio Valley Coal Company (OVCC) from mining near the old-gr6wth forest. OVCC owns the mineral rights.
"Ohio University is a major player as the owner of the forest and a multi-hundred million dollar institution," declared local environmentalist Chad Kister. "OU needs to act now to permanently protect Dysart Woods by supporting the Dysart Defenders Lands Unsuitable Petition appeal in the upcoming Reclamation Commission hearing."
OU Student Senate President Tom Rarnage also spoke at the rally, urging students to take an active roll in the situation, by writing letters, signingpetitions1 and contacting administrators. "Student Senate has passed several resolutions strongly urging OU to support the Dysart Defenders," Ramage said.
At the rally, Rudick announced the need to raise $6,000 to hire an expert hydrogeologist for the eventual appeals hearing in Columbus. At that time, the Ohio Reclamation Commission is expected to decide whether OVCC can mine the coal directly underneath Dysart Woods, among other things. To raise money, Dysart Defenders will be making and selling unique, hand-painted, personalized greeting cards to be sent to a person requested by the donor "Anyone making a donation to the Dysart Defenders legal defense fund can have a custom-designed hand-painted greeting card sent to someone, stating that a donation was made in their honor," Rudick said.
Dysart Woods comprises about 55 acres of a 455-acre nature preserve in Belmont County owned by OU and used as a land lab by university science departments. The preserve has been designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior
OU purchased Dysart Woods from The Nature Conservancy in 1966, and pledged to do anything in its power to protect the old-growth stand, Kister said at the rally.
OU has expressed an interest in protecting the forest though it
has occasionally differed with Kister and other environmentalists about
how to go about doing so.