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Vance wants Ohio’s Wayne National Forest name change stopped

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(The Center Square) – U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance told the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday he believes it has a low opinion of Ohioans.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Randy Moore, Vance, R-Ohio, said he wants the federal government to stop its plans to rename Wayne National Forest to advance inclusion.

Also, the first-term senator wants the federal government to disband all its renaming committees.

“This federal effort denigrates Ohio history and represents a lack of fidelity to our nation’s founding generation,” Vance wrote.

The U.S. Forest Service formally proposed changing the name to Buckeye National Forest on Monday, saying the move comes in response to requests from American Indian tribes and local community members.

In a news release, the forest service says Gen. Anthony Wayne’s legacy is complicated and includes leading a violent campaign against the Indigenous peoples of Ohio that resulted in their removal from their homelands.

The forest service said the current name is offensive because of the history of violence, and the plan to change the name is consistent with the agency’s efforts to advance equality and inclusion.

Other considered names included Ohio National Forest and Koteewa National Forest.

“Our intention is to listen to Tribal Nations and community members, and take the actions needed to better serve them,” Forest Supervisor Lee Stewart said. “The new name embraces the forest’s identity as Ohio’s only national forest and the welcoming, inclusive nature of the people of Ohio.”

A 15-day public engagement period began Monday to allow the public to share views of the planned change.

Vance, from southeastern Ohio, sent his letter Thursday morning.

“Wayne heroically served our nation in a time when its continued existence was not a foregone conclusion,” Vance wrote. “He fought wars and won peace for our government, the government you now serve, and hewed Ohio out of rugged wilderness and occupied enemy territory. Just as the United States would not exist without George Washington, Ohio would not exist without Anthony Wayne. Unfortunately, I am left to conclude that the USDA possesses such a low opinion of Ohioans that you believe us incapable of appreciating the complexities of American history … I ask that you reverse this misguided decision to rename Wayne National Forest. It would greatly benefit Ohioans and all Americans if our government could be counted on to defend our Founding Fathers, instead of capitulating to politically motivated renaming efforts. Until such courage can be found, I humbly recommend that the federal government disband all renaming committees.”

The Wayne National Forest covers nearly 250,000 acres of Appalachian foothills in southeastern Ohio.

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