By Perry Schaible
MASON - U.S. Congressman Rob Portman grew up enjoying the Little Miami River.
That's why the Republican from Terrace Park is now dedicated to helping a local group protect it.
Portman discussed environmental protection in the Bush administration and his own dedication to conservation programs Monday at Little Miami Inc.'s 37th annual Scenic River Conservation Dinner. About 125 people attended.
"It's a great part of our community's legacy, and we need to continue to do all that we can to protect the Little Miami. It is priceless," Portman said. "If the Little Miami ever becomes what it once was, when the water quality was so bad that nobody wanted to go down to the river . . . we'll have lost a very precious treasure."
He also outlined his legislation, including a new type of tax deduction that would give landowners who want to sell for conservation an exclusion from capital gains taxes.
"I was very impressed with his emphasis on partnership," said Barbara Dragul, director of education at the Isaac M. Wise Temple Religious School, which won a service award at the dinner. "Environmental work takes partnership, and he emphasized his commitment to fostering those partnerships."
In the last year, Little Miami Inc., an organization dedicated to the preservation of the Little Miami River, has acquired five nature preserves totaling some 200 acres on four miles of riverbank.
Those acquisitions bring the total amount of riverfront protection along the Little Miami to 46 percent, said Michael Schueler, Little Miami Inc. president.
"I think we're seriously restoring this river to what it was," Schueler said.
Little Miami Inc. has applied for a $300,000 grant from the Clean Ohio Fund to acquire 150 acres of protective easements around the river's Great Blue Heron Rookery. Officials will be notified in the next few months if funds are available.
"As we continue to preserve the river's forests, we will continue to press for wise public policy on issues of water quality restoration, wise land use and transportation planning like ... in Hamilton County's Eastern Corridor," Schueler said.
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