Johnson’s Woods is invaluable as a window into pre-industrial Ohio forests. And it only exists because for four hundred years people have not seen the land as valuable. It’s a funny thing, for the forest to have gained value thanks to being seen as worthless. Too swampy to farm and possessing no mineral reserves to exploit, it remained largely untouched by human hands. But as soon as our society began to appreciate the last shreds of our old-growth forests, we perceived Johnson’s Woods as having value.
And as soon as we valued it, we began to degrade it. A boardwalk was put in, and the tree-carvers followed. We made the woods accessible so we could better appreciate them, but in doing so we irrevocably changed the nature of the woods. The land was not farmed because it was too swampy, it was probably left un-mined because it lacked minerals, and it was not developed into a neighborhood or a shopping center probably because it is too far from other hubs of human activity. It was left inaccessible, free from harm, until, in our zeal to preserve it, we opened it up.