The Bureau of Land Management released another 142 acres of Wayne National Forest on Sept. 22 for private industries to lease with the intent of extracting oil and gas. The sale, combined with other parcels sold in Louisiana, netted the BLM more than $200,000, according to a press release.
The BLM started selling parcels of the Wayne National Forest, Ohio’s only national forest, starting in September 2016. BLM spokesperson Davida Carnahan said in February that they intend to release parcels quarterly. The BLM also sold parcels in Louisiana.
Some citizens worry the action could lead to hydraulic fracturing, a process in which chemicals are injected into the ground to fracture the earth and release natural gas. Since the BLM only leases the parcels to oil and gas companies, activists have the opportunity to submit proposals and protests through a formal process prior to the sale.
10 protests were made regarding the sales in the two states, but none of the six parcels were removed.
Previous sales of the Wayne National Forest have yielded more than $7 million. The oil and gas companies that purchase the land are required to pay the federal government a royalty equal to 12.5 percent the value of production.
Ohio receives 25 percent minimum of sales within the state.
Originally published for The Post on Sept. 28, 2017.
A local two-legged puppy tumbled his way into the hearts of millions two years ago after garnering international media attention. Nearly two years later, he no longer uses the wheels the Ohio University Innovation Center 3-D-printed for him.
Tumbles was born without his front legs. Because of his disability, he would get pushed out of the way by his brother and sister when he was trying to nurse, forcing his owner to give him up to a foster home.
Karen Pilcher, who was on the board of the Athens Friends of Shelter Dogs, has been by Tumbles’ side since he was four weeks old. She officially adopted him last December. He’ll be two years old soon.
Pilcher and some other members of the Athens Friends of Shelter Dogs created a Facebook page for Tumbles in November 2015, when he was six weeks old. An engineer saw the page and designed wheels to help Tumbles’ mobility. He brought his idea to the OU Innovation Center, who agreed to create the wheels using 3-D printing.
“OU was wonderful,” Pilcher said. “They only charged us for the materials for the wheels, not the labor. It only cost around $250, whereas other wheels are much more expensive.”
A video of Tumbles wheeling around began circulating the internet; before Pilcher knew it, she was the mother to a viral star.
“He was everywhere,” she said. “We got messages on Facebook and friends from all over the world. He was in the papers in England, Brazil, Germany, Ireland.”
Even though the wheels are adjustable and will last his lifetime, Pilcher said Tumbles doesn’t like to use them very much anymore. They inhibit his mobility, she said, and he much prefers hopping and pushing himself on his stomach. In the past few months, he also began walking on his back paws.
“He doesn’t know any different,” she said. “The thing that makes him great is his personality. There’s a lot of two legged dogs, and they all have great personality. They’re fighters.”
Tumbles now lives with three other dogs and 19 cats.
“They all get along great,” Pilcher said. “He’s just so happy about everything.”
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Youngstown, will return to his alma mater, Ohio University, in October as part of his campaign to reach out to college campuses.
Schiavoni, a 2001 OU alumnus, began his campaign nearly a year ago and has spent every day in a different part of Ohio. He said his sights are set on college campuses in the upcoming months. He said he is planning on going to Ohio State University, Kenyon University, Oberlin College and — of course — his alma mater.
“Young people are the key to this next election,” he said. “As I travel the state, young people want to be involved in this next election because they know it’s important.”
Schiavoni said he will participate in OU’s homecoming parade Oct. 7, but, as of press time, he does not know if he will hold any other events.
Although he will be walking with them in the parade, OU College Democrats has not yet endorsed a candidate and will not until the spring primary.
“We’re really excited about that,” OU College Democrats President Ashley Fishwick said of Schiavoni coming to Athens. “It’s good to see a candidate who’s really engaged with students.”
At 37 years old, Schiavoni is the youngest governor candidate. He said this gives him an advantage when it comes to garnering college students’ votes.
“I understand the concerns (of students),” he said. “I understand we need to give young people incentives to stay and build their lives here.”
Schiavoni said he will establish fellowships to get young people involved in his campaign.
Schiavoni said a main focus of his campaign is advocating for the alleviation of student debt. He will roll out a bill next week to assist in financing homes for first-time buyers with student debt.
“We want young people to stay and prosper in Ohio,” he said. “I’m somebody that is concerned about your future and keeping you in the state. I know we have to have incentive programs.”
Sam Miller, former president of the College Democrats, said she is interested in several candidates, and Schiavoni is one of them.
“Oftentimes in politics, we see older people pretending to understand the issues of young people,” she said. “He was a Bobcat. He wasn’t in college that long ago. He understands that college is really expensive and is trying to fix that. His youth really attracts college students to him.”
Originally published for The Post on Sept. 17, 2017.
Ohio University’s basketball coach Saul Phillips woke up this morning just like any other day, only when he opened his eyes, he couldn’t see.
Phillips spent the day with a disability like seven other Athens residents as part of the annual “Disabilities Speak” program hosted by the Athens County Commission on Disabilities.
“I was really struck by how my job and day-to-day hinges directly on my sight,” Phillips, who wore opaque sunglasses that obstructed his vision, said. “When it’s gone, you notice in a hurry.”
The disabilities ranged from being tethered to a walker to limb paralysis.
“We are all temporarily abled,” said Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who served as the former chair of the Athens County Commission on Disabilities. “One day we will all have a disability. That’s just the frailness of the human body.”
All eight of the volunteers gathered in the Athens Community Center on Thursday at 6 p.m. to share their experience with the community. The program began with a performance from the Athens County Community Singers, a mixed choir of about 36 singers of all abilities.
Following the performance, Barbara Conover, consultant for the American Disabilities Act and the mother of disabled children, delivered a keynote speech on universal design. Universal design is the concept of allowing accessibility for people of all abilities, such as ramps, door levers instead of knobs and wider hallways.
“Everyone ought to be able to use everything available to everyone,” she said.
Although the city has made great strides, including a lift to the mayoral office and an ADA accessible path in Sells Park, Patterson said the city has a long way to go.
Athens City Schools Superintendent Tom Gibbs, who had a paralyzed arm for the day, said the experience was eye-opening not only to physical disabilities, but all disabilities students might be facing.
“A physical example was good but … what we confront more everyday are things like mental, cognitive or social disabilities,” he said. “I used this opportunity to talk to our staff about how to address those disabilities as well.”
Patterson wrapped up the event by presenting the annual Athena award to Noriko Kantake, the president of Appalachian Family Center for Autism and Disability Resources and Education. Kantake has an autistic son and recognized the need for increased accessibility in Athens.
“To be here today … this really makes my heart soar,” Patterson said. “I’m hoping everyone walks away today with more sensitivities to those around them and more sensitivities to accessibility and inclusion.”
Some people are using Wayne National Forest as a dumping ground for anything from couches to kitchen appliances.
Illegal dumping is one of the issues facing the only national forest in Ohio, the forest’s Public Affairs Officer Gary Chancey said. The most common items include scrap appliances, construction debris, tires, furniture and more.
“A lot of (the bigger items) that are dumped are things … you’d have to pay to throw away,” Erin Sykes, Zero Waste’s program director, said. “Whether it’s a learned habit or whether it’s trying to avoid paying for throwing away their trash, those are two big contributors. It’s a lot of wide open land, so it’s hard to monitor.”
Rural Action, a local environmental conservation group, has identified 124 dumpsites on public and private lands in Athens, Hocking, Perry and Morgan counties. Wayne National Forest has partnered with Rural Action’s Zero Waste Initiative to conduct cleanups of the forest. The next cleanup event is Sept. 30.
“Litter damages ecosystems and animal habitats,” Chancey said. “Because illegal dumps can pose a health and safety hazard, it is critical to clean up litter and illegal dumps as soon as possible.”
Since the partnership between Rural Action and Wayne National Forest began in 2014, 21 dumpsite cleanups have been conducted, and more than 200 volunteers have logged about 600 hours.
“The agreement expands the Wayne National Forest and Rural Action-Zero Waste Programs ongoing efforts by sharing resources to protect and enhance watershed areas threatened by illegal dumping in and adjacent to the Wayne National Forest,” Chancey said.
The partnership with Rural Action also helped to secure a $12,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for a trailer stocked with litter and dumpsite cleanup equipment.
Everyone, not just those who spent time in the Wayne, should care, Chancey said.
“Neglect and apathy take root in a neighborhood,” he said. “By volunteering their time to clean up illegal dumpsites, many students have taken action to help make a difference in their community, which includes Wayne National Forest.”
Originally published for The Post on Sept. 14, 2017.
Some state representatives are arguing that Ohio University — or any public college in Ohio — shall make no law prohibiting the freedom of speech.
State Reps. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and Wesley Goodman (R-Cardington) are introducing a bill to the Ohio House of Representatives reaffirming First Amendment rights on college campuses.
“We need to defend (free speech) everywhere, but especially in college campuses where you’re supposed to have a free exchange of ideas,” Brenner said. “We have some universities enact some policies that have led to some alternative ideas being squashed, and I don’t want to see that happen.”
Brenner said the Free Speech Act aims to ensure public universities in Ohio are compliant with the First Amendment. That includes an elimination of “free speech zones” that are present on many college campuses. The entire campus should be a free speech zone, Brenner said.
Under the Free Speech Act, policies such as OU’s would not be able to exist.
“Public universities that are getting large amounts of taxpayers’ money, their policies and conducts of laws should be consistent with the First Amendment,” Goodman said.
Goodman emphasized the need for an exchange of ideas at the collegiate level.
“We completely reject that notion that speech or expression is harmful,” he said. “The answer to speech we dislike or disagree with … is to meet it with more speech of what you believe and find to be true.”
OU has faced the debate around free speech on campus in recent years. Last fall, the university hosted a addressing the drawing of a hanged figure on the graffiti wall, which is at the intersection of Mulberry Street and Richland Avenue. The event sparked a debate about what constitutes hate speech and free speech.
“We can all agree that hateful rhetoric has no place on this campus,” David Parkhill, the former OU College Republicans president, said last October during the panel discussion. “But who is to say what is hateful rhetoric? We cannot allow the government and we cannot allow our institutions to start regulating our speech. Once it starts, where does it stop?”
The line between hate speech and First Amendment freedoms is not quite so clear cut. Sarah Wooldridge, a sophomore studying middle childhood education, said she thinks the bill is not a good idea in some situations.
“(Speech) should be limited to keep things appropriate and professional,” she said. “We need to learn how to interact and get our points across in appropriate ways. … We need to learn how to communicate our ideas professionally at our age now.”
Brenner stressed that the proposed bill does not tolerate speech that portrays a clear and present danger, which has been rhetoric ruled upon the U.S. Supreme Court in reference to free speech.
“If someone is causing threat or physical violence, that’s not tolerated and they should be arrested,” he said. “We’re talking speech (and a) discussion of ideas.”
Goodman said the two would likely introduce the bill to the Ohio House of Representatives in the next few weeks, and they hope to pass it through the Ohio House, Senate and governor’s office by next spring.
“Too often we’re talking at each other or past each other,” Goodman said. “We see this as a step toward creating a healthier climate and a healthy dialogue so that young people on college campuses are fully equipped to be engaged and successful citizens of Ohio.”
Athens teen Emmalyn Brown was only 9 years old when her liver suddenly failed. Had it not been for the generosity of a donor, she would’ve died in three days.
Since her transplant, Brown, now 19, has been actively campaigning for increased awareness and registration of organ donors in Ohio. As part of a project her junior year at Athens High School, Brown reached out to former State Rep. Debbie Phillips to begin work on new legislation that would require schools to teach about the positive effects of organ donation.
“I (saw) a pattern of folks who didn’t understand donation or who held strange myths about it, especially in isolated communities across the state,” Brown said. “I realized that if they had more education on donation, maybe from a third party, they would understand it better.”
Brown worked closely with Phillips and Lifeline of Ohio, an organization she volunteered with, to give input on the proposed legislation. After almost four years, Brown is excited to finally see the bill become law.
The legislation requires that every Ohio public school educates students on the positive effects of organ donation. It was an amendment added to , which outlines public school appreciation week.
“As a retired teacher, I’ve always been very sensitive to young students and their need for education on a wide variety of fronts,” said State Rep. John Patterson, who was the sponsor of HB438. “Organ donation is one of those things that all of us ought to be educated about.”
The law allows for schools to instruct on organ donation in whatever way is convenient to them, Patterson said, which is typically in a health class.
A found 90 percent of Ohioans reported being in favor of organ and tissue donation, but only 54 percent of eligible citizens are actually registered in the Ohio Donor Registry.
“It is our hope that through education more students as they age into their adulthood are more inclined to become organ donors,” Patterson, an OU alumnus, said. “It only seems logical to educate our young people on the possibilities of the gift that keeps on giving.”
Greg Haylett, a fifth-year senior studying biological science, said he wished a similar program was in place when he was in high school.
“As long as it’s (an) unbiased thing, I couldn’t see a downside to it,” Haylett, an organ donor, said. “It could be a positive thing because that’s a decision everyone has to make when they get their license.”
Brown said she hopes this legislation debunks myths and stigmas associated with organ donation and ultimately increases organ donation registration.
“There are no cons to organ donation in my book — only pros,” Brown said. “It has saved my life and many people I know. Organ donation is something that makes sense to me as you can help others after your own death.”
Originally published for The Post on Sept. 8, 2017.