In 1916, the state forest system was born with the purchase of 221 acres in Athens County and 1,500 acres in Lawrence County leading, to the creation of Waterloo State Forest, which currently is a wildlife research area, and Dean State Forest.
The Division of Forestry continued to purchase more lands throughout the state, particularly in the hill region of eastern and southeastern Ohio. By the end of the 1920s, the Division had acquired more than 30,000 acres of land. Virtually all of the lands were either cut over forests or poorly degraded farm and pastureland.
To aid in reforestation efforts, temporary nurseries were located within several state forests. Over the course of the next 80 years, these nurseries produced 500 million seedlings that were planted on more than 1,000,000 million acres of forested land.
During the mid-1900s, the concept of a “state forest-park” emerged, and areas of unique geologic significance were acquired as state forests. State forest areas such as Mohican, Hocking, John Bryan, Nelson Ledges, Findley, Hueston Woods, and Beaver Creek were maintained primarily for public use because of their outstanding recreational and scenic value. This changing use for public forestland was the beginning of a new approach to public land management, which is reflected today in the organization of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, where different lands are managed for different uses.