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“10,000 Acres” Documentary Features Muskie Impact
10,000 Acres

On October 27, the Muskingum University Biology Department and the biology honorary society Beta Beta Beta premiered “10,000 Acres.”  This multimedia documentary focuses on the history of land use and people in the area now occupied by The Wilds, the largest conservation facility in North America. The documentary looks at the land’s prehistory, its time as a farming community and strip mine, and its reclamation and transformation into a wildlife preserve.

The history of The Wilds features multiple Muskingum connections. Alumni Dorothy Montgomery ’53 and Hal Burlingame ’62 were interviewed on their recollections of their families’ farms. Muskingum President Emeritus Samuel W. Speck, Jr. ’59 authored Ohio’s Strip Mine Reclamation Act while serving in the Ohio House of Representatives. His bill was the model for the federal legislation whose impact is felt throughout Appalachia, the Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act of 1977.

Affiliated with the Columbus Zoo today, the Wilds features herd-based animal populations, offers safari-like visitor experiences, and supports nationally and internationally recognized research on the preservation of endangered species. During most summers for the past 20 years, Muskingum student teams led by Dr. Danny Ingold, Homer A. Anderson Distinguished Professor of Natural Science, and Dr. Jim Dooley, Bill and Martha Lovejoy Professor of Biology, have gathered grassland bird data at The Wilds for population studies, habitat preferences, nest-site fidelity, and nesting success.

“10,000 Acres” is a web-based interactive documentary, including written narratives, photographs, videos, audio clips, and graphics. The documentary’s director is filmmaker and writer Doug Swift, a professor of Journalism and English at Denison University, who taught at Muskingum in the early 1990s when The Wilds was created.

The documentary is now available online. A Zanesville Times Recorder article recently spotlighted the project.

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