National Forest Renaming Plan Draws Backlash

( – The federal proposal to rename Ohio’s Wayne National Park has sparked controversy as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service considers changing its name due to its association with American Revolutionary leader Gen. Anthony Wayne.

The Forest Service is contemplating alternatives in light of the general’s involvement in the removal of Native Americans in 1794, prompting criticism from lawmakers and residents who argue for preserving Wayne’s historical contributions.

Proposed name changes include “Buckeye National Forest,” aligning with Ohio’s state nickname, as well as options like “The Ohio National Forest” and “Koteewa National Forest,” paying homage to forest management practices.

Forest Supervisor Lee Stewart emphasized the agency’s commitment to respecting tribal nations and communities, seeking a name that genuinely represents all of Ohio’s diverse communities and promotes equity and inclusion.

Gen. Anthony Wayne’s historical legacy, marked by his involvement in displacing Native Americans and owning over 50 slaves, has become a focal point of contention. Republican lawmakers, including Sen. JD Vance, argue that Wayne’s historical contributions should be recognized and preserved. Vance expressed concern that the proposed name change denigrates Ohio’s history and is part of a broader federal trend of replacing real historical figures with abstract concepts.

Other Ohio Republicans, including Reps. Warren Davidson, Troy Balderson, Brad Wenstrup, and Bill Johnson disagreed with the proposal. They questioned the $400,000 price tag associated with the change and requested an extension to the public comment period.

Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stevens condemned the name change as an example of “woke Biden administration” overreach, asserting that Wayne National Forest has been a cherished destination for nearly a century.

Residents participated in the public comment period, with some suggesting ironically renaming the forest the “Woke National Forest.” Opposition centered on preserving history, with one email likening the removal of Anthony Wayne to erasing Thomas Jefferson from Mount Rushmore.

However, more than half of the responses supported the renaming, citing concerns about associating the park with a figure involved in violence against Native Americans. Advocates for the change argued that the Buckeye tree better represents Ohio, emphasizing the need to address untold history.

The Agriculture Department has yet to announce a final decision, leaving the fate of Wayne National Park in the hands of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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