Cleveland’s Own: Western Reserve Land Conservancy

In this month’s edition of Fox 8’s Cleveland’s Own, Matt Kaulig meets with Rich Cochran and Stella Dilik from Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

There is nothing more beautiful than a crisp fall day in northern Ohio. The sun shimmering on our great Lake Erie; the red and yellow leaves of a beech maple forest; the long views of crop and pasture land framed by towering forests; and the gentle murmuring rivers that run through our glacial landscape. The Western Reserve Land Conservancy inspires citizens throughout our region in the effort to protect land and water for the benefit of all of our communities, creating a habitat that serves people. They envision a healthy and scenic landscape, a patchwork quilt of large natural areas connected by wildlife and river corridors, a beautiful region interspersed with well-planned agricultural, residential, and commercial development that supports the people of our region now and forever.

Fox 8 Cleveland’s Own

Fox 8 Cleveland’s Own is about good people doing good work in Northeast Ohio. WJW Fox 8 and Kaulig Charitable Giving Programs team up to celebrate Cleveland’s Own by highlighting the best of our region in a big way! Each month, Fox 8’s Stefani Schaefer and Kaulig Companies and LeafFilter Executive Chairman Matt Kaulig, share a story about a person or organization from Northeast Ohio doing good work.

To see more Cleveland’s Own stories, or to nominate an organization to be featured, visit Kaulig Giving’s Cleveland’s Own page.

Read the Transcript

Stefani Schaefer

Each month, Kaulig Giving and Fox 8 will highlight people, organizations, and charities making a difference in Northeast Ohio. It's time to celebrate Cleveland's Own.

Matt Kaulig

Hi, I'm Matt Kaulig. This month on Cleveland's Own, we hear from Western Reserve Land Conservancy. This land conservation organization is one of the largest in the country, permanently preserving natural areas and restoring them into thriving communities, cities, and habitats. Let's hear from Rich and Stella at Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

Rich Cochran

Western Reserve Land Conservancy is a regional nonprofit conservation organization. By regional; we mean we work from the Pennsylvania line over to the Sandusky Bay as far south as places like Canton and Wooster.

Stella Dillik

Western Reserve Land Conservancy has conserved over 66,000 acres of land and more than 805 properties. It is an organization that has merged with about a dozen other land trusts to really come together and create this conservation story and the impacts that we have had. What makes Western Reserve Land Conservancy unique among other land trusts in the nation is the work that we do in cities. Most land trusts protect natural areas and create green spaces for parks and other conserved areas. Some focus on agricultural lands as well. Many do not focus on all three, and that's what makes us unique and special.

Rich Cochran

As we studied the city of Cleveland, we started doing our urban conservation work. One of the first things we realized it's really denuded. It went from a 50% tree canopy in some neighborhoods down to maybe 10% now. We were known as the Forest City. For decades, we had one of the best urban forests, but since the 1950s, we've let that decline.

Stella Dillik

Reforest Our City is a program we launched in 2015 to jumpstart the reforestation of the city of Cleveland. We host a number of community activities where we teach people how to plant trees, how to care for trees, we call them tree stewards. We conduct tree giveaways in areas where there are low canopies. We register people who want to plant trees and we'll take care of them and then report back to us on the health of those trees.

Rich Cochran

So we're reforesting the Forest City. We're buying old landfills and converting them into landmark parks and preserves. Land conservation and restoration is important for one simple reason, which is all living things are ultimately a reflection of their aggregate environmental conditions. So this makes our mission vitally important to all the living things in the region, in particular to human beings. We have millions of human beings living in this region. The more we can raise the bar on environmental condition health, the healthier those people are, the healthier those communities are. And you create what's known as a positive feedback loop. And you really have a self-sustaining system then.

Matt Kaulig

So, Elizabeth, thanks for having us out here. This is a great event. So tell us what we're doing out here.

Elizabeth Grace

We're out today planting trees in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood and the reason we're doing this is because planting trees improves the tree canopy and helps folks live in a more healthy, vibrant community.

Matt Kaulig

So, Elizabeth, why are partnerships so important to Western Reserve Land Conservancy?

Elizabeth Grace

We could not do this work alone. On a site like this, we work with neighborhood organizations, we talked to residents about what they want to see here in their neighborhood. We work with the city of Cleveland. There are multiple partners that are involved in a tree planting on one side in the vacant lot.

Matt Kaulig

So how can Fox 8 viewers get involved or how can people in this community help?

Lizzie Sords

I would encourage anybody that has room in their yard to plant a tree in their yard. We do about ten to twelve tree plantings a year. We plant in the fall and in the spring. And we also do some yard tree giveaways. We're looking to add a canopy through the backyards that way as well.

Matt Kaulig

To learn more about Western Reserve land Conservancy and how you can help support local land preservation for years to come, visit wrlandconservancy.org. To nominate a person or organization for an upcoming episode of Cleveland's Own, visit Kauliggiving.com/clevelandsown. Make it a great day!