Ohio Conservation Federation hosts roundtable with Senator Portman

Larry S. Moore, Contributing Writer

Many of the leaders of the Ohio Conservation Federation (OCF) headed to Medina and the Hill N Dale Club for a morning of pheasant hunting and a discussion of sportsmen conservation issues.  Senator Rob Portman joined the group for the hunt and to discuss the issues important to the leaders. OCF leadership included Matt Misicka, OCF President; Steve Gray, OCF Policy Director; Lee Crocker, NWTF Regional Biologist; Jim Inglis, Pheasants Forever Director of Governmental Affairs; Larry Moore, Buckeye Firearms Association Sportsman Leader; and Harry Kinnison, Ohio State Trappers Vice President. The roundtable was joined by additional conservation leaders.

The club offers some of the finest sporting clays courses in Ohio. The morning was bright and crisp conditions, nearly perfect for a pheasant hunt. Even at the end of February the fields had plenty of cover for the pheasants. The pheasants were strong and flew quickly requiring some fine shooting.  Everyone agreed that the weather, the birds and the dogs combined to make an outstanding pheasant hunt. Back at the clubhouse it was time to discuss the issues.

Senator Portman opened the roundtable discussion with an update on Lake Erie. The Senator said, “I want to address what is going on with Lake Erie algae blooms. We’ve focused a lot on that in the last six years. There are at least four different bills including the Clean Water Bill. One is requiring the federal agencies, including NOAA, to come create a report, which is due in September, on the algae blooms. We’ve made progress in the last four years including setting the 40% reduction of nitrogen and phosphorous levels. I’ve worked with the farm bureau to take the lead on conservation. Most farmers in the critical Maumee Basin are doing conservation efforts.”

He continued addressing the invasive species concerns, “I am now the co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force. We are going to be more aggressive with the US Army Corps on invasive species. We need to address how to keep the carp out. There are issues with the Chicago River and environmental DNA has been discovered in the lake. We need to ensure the Army Corps is doing everything possible with the latest technology. We’ve spent some money on the issue and are willing to spend more. The Army Corps needs provide the best technology. The issues scares me because the carp keep moving closer.”

The next question raised addressed concerns about the Great Lakes Restoration issues. Portman responded, “We did get the full funding and exceeded the request in the Obama Budget. We got the authorization and the appropriation. This is doing a lot of good work. We want to get it used properly. The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act would not have happened without sportsmen support.”

Finally the micro-bead issue and legislation was addressed. Lake Erie around Cleveland has some of the highest concentration of micro-beads. Portman noted, “We worked with industry and environmentalists, who wanted more restrictions. The micro-beads are getting phased out. This is a good example of working in a bi-partisan effort to make the necessary changes.”

There are a number of wide-ranging environmental and conservation issues facing Ohio and our nation. One is the Stream Protection rule which has been widely reported recently. There are water quality concerns in southeastern Ohio coal mines. The Senator reported, “The rewrite doesn’t impact the main rule which was put into place in 1983. It is usually referred to as the Stream Buffer Rule. I’ve been down in the coal mines to understand what was being considered. The coal people argued that coal reserves as far down as 600 feet would become off limits. On the surface is drainage whether you call it a creek or maybe just a wet spot during spring rains. I think it was an over reach. The courts had stopped it for review so the rule was not yet implemented. The Trump Administration put this out under the Congressional Review Act and it was repealed.”

OCF Policy Director Steve Gray addressed the public land access issue saying, “Ohio ranks very low in public land for hunting, fishing and trapping. Any time we can keep public land open in Ohio it is critical, The federal level faces  moves to return land to the states, privatize land or sell it. We need your help to keep the public lands public.”

Senator Portman responded, “I am on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and taken a lead on parks. Ohio doesn’t have as many parks as other states. It is an interesting opportunity to talk about the issues from a different perspective. Last December we did pass the National Parks Centennial Act. It helps establish better boundaries and funding for the parks through public and private foundation grant program. Parks are underfunded for infrastructure. The maintenance backlog may be $12 billion. We took a pretty good chunk out of that with this legislation. It is value for the taxpayer. The Sportsman Act, which I am a cosponsor, opens up more land to hunting, fishing and trapping.”

The next item on the roundtable agenda was the farm bill.  Portman explained, “We are back to another farm bill already. In the Senate, so far so good. The farm bill includes some important money for the Great Lakes. A lot of funding for the 40% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorous, came from the last farm bill. I will be focused a lot on ensuring this is in the new bill. Agriculture and conservation is important for Ohio” Gray added, “The Conservation Reserve Program within the farm bill is a winner for both sides. It is good for farms and farming and tremendously good for conservation. There are a lot of key provisions.”

Scott Paschke, Ducks Unlimited Regional Director, asked, “The North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) has been a incredible program. There is currently a letter circulating for appropriations for that program.  Its critical for the Great Lakes and wetlands.”

Gray explained the impact, “The federal duck stamp money, state wetlands stamp money and the DU money all go into this so the money is leveraged several times. One dollar from the act may increase to $4 before it is spent. The leverage aspect is great but it all starts with the seed  money of NAWCA. When you buy a duck state to hunt in Ohio, 40% of that money goes to a project in Canada for breeding grounds. Ohio has been doing this since 1965. NAWCA is an improvement on that. Northern Ohio has a tremendous benefit from this along Magee Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and others across the northern part of Ohio.”

Pete  Novotny (ODNR Division of Wildlife District 3 Manager) asked about shooting ranges saying, “We need to extend the planning cycle from a three year to five year cycle. We need more ranges and the ability to build better ranges to service the shooters and attract new shooters. There are a couple of possible avenues to help with range development. The Pittman-Robertson Act requires a 25% match from the state but perhaps that could be a 10% match. Ranges take a long time to be built so there is a real need for the five-year cycle.”

Gray noted, “There is a real need for people to shoot in Ohio. It’s a real challenge for those living in cities and suburbs. It’s a great luxury that the Pittman-Robertson funds have grown so much with the sales of guns, ammo and archery equipment. The P-R law requires a percentage to be spent on ranges. Shooting ranges are an opportunity to expand the private and public partnership. That has been done at the Cardinal Center complex. It is a public range operated by a private entity. There is a nominal fee but there are no memberships so it is open to the public.

Buckeye Firearms Association expressed concerns about the future of the CMP and NRA National Matches in Ohio at Camp Perry. Some matches have been moved to Indiana. Additionally the CMP has a new modern shooting complex outside Talladega. There is a need to address facilities at Camp Perry to ensure Ohio doesn’t lose these important matches. Ohio cannot afford to let these slip away like the ATA Grand American Trapshoot. Portman assured the group that he will look into the range development, P-R and Camp Perry concerns.

Portman  concluded the meeting, “It is great to be with you. This is an ongoing dialog. I am a hunter and fisherman. Looking past my role as Senator, I am a citizen. Ohio is blessed with a really good sportsmen groups. I don’t know any state that has a stronger base. Let us be a better partner with you. The Lake Erie Charter Boat Association has been not been shy talking about Lake Erie. That is a reason I’ve taken a lead on Lake Erie issues in the Senate. You keep us informed and involved. Anyone with input regarding Lake Erie and other issues, get in touch with our office. Please do not hesitate to contact us.”

Restoring Funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

30 March, 2017

Last month, OCF VP Stefan Marsh and I traveled to Washington DC with a coalition of more than eighty sportsmen & women and conservationists (including colleagues from Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association) from the eight Great Lake States to educate our public officials on the importance of a healthy Lake Erie to Ohio’s hunters, anglers and trappers. Lake Erie, an important source of drinking water, is also a major economic engine in the state of Ohio, supporting a multi-billion dollar fishing, boating, and tourism industry on our north coast.  We were glad to learn this week that nine Ohio congressmen and women signed on to a bipartisan letter in support of restoring funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  Those nine include the letter’s author David Joyce (R – Dist 14), along with Bob Gibbs (R – Dist 7), Jim Renacci (R – Dist 16), Tim Ryan (D – Dist 13), Marcia Fudge (D – Dist 10), Joyce Beatty (D – Dist 10), Bill Johnson (R – Dist 6), Michael Turner (R – Dist 10), and Steve Stivers (R – 15). Thanks to each of you for your support of this important legislation!!

Click the link below to see the full text of the letter:

HOW GLRI Letter

Ohio Sportsmen and Conservation Organizations Call for Increased Funding

On March 29th, following a successful Legislative Reception hosted by the Athletic Club of Columbus, the Sportsmen’s Alliance and long list of partners announced that collectively, Ohio hunters, anglers and trappers would request an increase in license and permit fees, the first such increase in fourteen years.  The text of the announcement is below

Ohio Sportsmen and Conservation Organizations Call For Increased Funding.

Ohio’s hunters, fishermen and trappers are doing something most citizens never do. They are asking Ohio’s governor, state representatives and state senators to raise the license fees for these activities in Ohio. Concerned about counties with no law enforcement presence, decreasing fish stocking, decreases in wildlife habitat management, and a growing list of projects that need to be done, Ohio’s top conservation groups are united in asking the legislature to allow sportsmen to continue to pay their own way as they have done for decades.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife is funded almost entirely (96%) by sportsmen’s dollars. These funds pay for law enforcement, wildlife habitat enhancements, endangered species programs, fish stocking, boating access, shooting ranges and much more. However, many of these programs have increasingly fallen on hard times because the fees paid by hunters, fishermen and trappers have not been updated for 14 years.

“In 2003, Ohio sportsmen and women promised then-Governor Bob Taft that if he raised license fees that the funds would last for at least ten years,” said Luke Houghton, associate director of state services for the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “We’ve gone well past that mark now, and it’s time to take action. Rising healthcare costs and other increases over the past 14 years have taken their toll on the services sportsmen and women, and all Ohioans, have come to rely upon. We’re asking Governor Kasich and the legislature to address this need by raising license fees.”

Unlike many government agencies that use general taxpayer dollars, Ohio sportsmen gladly pay their own way to ensure quality habitat, great fisheries, and diligent law enforcement. These things have made hunting a $1.4 billion per year economic driver in Ohio, and fishing more than double that at $2.9 billion per year!

“Without an increase however, customer satisfaction will continue to drop, and the hunting and fishing economies with it,” explained Houghton. “Fortunately, this is all preventable because Ohio’s outdoor community is willing to pay for the needed improvements.”

The Sportsmen’s Alliance, along with 22 other conservation organizations are asking the legislature to address the issue by taking two steps. First, by addressing the cost of non-resident deer hunting in Ohio, which is the lowest of any quality whitetail deer hunting state in the country at $149 for a license and tag. The average for other high-quality deer states is $393, with the lowest cost states around $250. By raising the cost of nonresident deer hunting to $250, Ohio will remain attractive to the current 40,000 non-residents who hunt here, while decreasing the burden faced by resident hunters and anglers.

Second, by addressing the inequity on non-resident costs, the increase on resident hunting and fishing fees could be a modest $3. The two user fee increases are fair to non-residents, and modest on Ohioans. More importantly, they will provide the funds to solve the issues that concern Ohio’s sportsmen.

In addition to the Sportsmen’s Alliance, supporters of these changes include: the Ohio Conservation Federation; Ohio Chapter, National Wild Turkey Federation; National Wild Turkey Federation; Ducks Unlimited Ohio; Pheasants Forever; Buckeye Big Buck Club; Ohio State Trappers Association; Lake Erie Charter Boat Association; Ohio Bowhunters Association; Ohio Bass Federation; Ohio Husky Musky Club; League of Ohio Sportsmen; Trout Unlimited; Ruffed Grouse Society; Rocky Brands; National Wildlife Federation; Gallia County Conservation Club; Quail Forever; Turn-In-Poacher; SW Ohio Chapter Safari Club International; Northern Ohio Chapter Safari Club International; and the Stark County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

 

Portman and Strickland Asked to Commit to Support Public Lands

U.S. Senate Candidates Rob Portman and Ted Strickland
Asked to Commit Support for Public Lands

National parks, forest and wildlife refuges threatened by some in Congress, states

OHIO (Sept. 29, 2016) – As the race for Senate in Ohio reaches the final few weeks, National Wildlife Federation and the Ohio Conservation Federation today announced the submission of a letter of principles to both Senator Portman and Governor Strickland’s campaigns asking them to commit to keeping public lands in public hands for all Americans. The letter to the U.S. Senate candidates from NWF on behalf of their 156,000 Ohio members and supporters follows similar letters to the Clinton and Trump campaigns that were signed by 42 sportsmen organizations asking that they commit to keeping public lands public.

As the letter notes, the majority of Americans in both parties support and cherish public lands. A recent poll of registered voters in Ohio commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation showed that over four in five Ohioans (84 percent) believe that public lands should remain open to the public. These lands include national parks and forests, state parks, and wildlife refuges, among others. In addition, the survey found that 83 percent of registered voters in Ohio are against “the U.S. Congress passing laws that allow national public lands to be sold for private uses such as housing developments, resorts, mining, and oil and gas drilling.” Despite this widespread support however, there is a small yet vocal group of lawmakers at the federal and state level that is seeking to dismantle public lands and open them up to being handed over to private interests and corporations — irrevocably cutting off public access to the land that people have enjoyed for generations.

“America’s public lands are one of our nation’s greatest assets, said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation. “Our members in Ohio treasure access to their public lands to hunt, fish, and simply to enjoy the great outdoors. Ohio’s public lands are especially important to hunters, because many big game species depend upon contiguous wildlife corridors for annual migrations and to raise their young. We hope that both candidates will use their senate campaigns as a platform to express support for protecting public lands in Ohio and all across our nation — and keep them accessible for all Americans in the future.”

“Ohio’s sportsmen and women are public land owners. We firmly believe that we need to keep public lands in public hands,” said Matt Misicka, President, Ohio Conservation Federation. “Without public lands, many Ohioans would not have a place to hunt, fish and trap.”

Please Note: The National Wildlife Federation and The Ohio Conservation Federation do not participate in political campaigns, nor do we endorse, support or oppose any political party or any candidates for elected office.

 

Visit the National Wildlife Federation Media Center at NWF.org/News.

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly-changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Ohio Conservation Federation is the leading voice for sportsmen conservationists promoting the wise use and stewardship of Ohio’s wildlife and natural resources.

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OCF Weighs in on S.B. 293

27 April 2016

OCF’s President, Matt Misicka, joined colleagues Luke Houghton and Rob Sexton (Sportsmen’s Alliance), Jack Shaner (Ohio Environmental Council), Tom Butch (Columbiana County Federation of Conservation Clubs), Larry Mitchell (League of Ohio Sportsmen), and three members of the Conneaut Creek Advisory Council, to provide opponent testimony to various aspects of S.B. 293 before the Senate committee on Government Oversight and Reform.

A summary of the testimony is below:

Chairman Coley and Members of the Committee,

I am writing today on behalf of the Ohio Conservation Federation (OCF) and its membership, which includes:

Buckeye Big Buck Club, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, and the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society.

OCF is opposed to the creation of Natural Resource Officers in S.B.293.  We are concerned that the bill will result in a natural resource police force under a third party law enforcement section or division, further politicizing ODNR by taking away authority from the chiefs of divisions.  Concurrently, we worry that previously dedicated watercraft license fees and fuel tax, paid by sportsmen and other boaters, may be used for other expenses within ODNR.

Likewise, OCF joins the League of Ohio Sportsmen in its opposition to the consolidation of Ohio’s fourteen Scenic Rivers Advisory Boards into a single board. At its annual meeting in February, the League of Ohio Sportsmen passed a resolution in support of maintaining the current status of the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Advisory Councils within ODNR. Perhaps now more than ever, Ohio needs more, not less, citizen involvement and oversight of natural resources management. With many of Ohio’s streams and rivers imperiled, the Maumee River and its tributaries a prime example, OCF opposes S.B. 293 in its current form. We view this consolidation as a threat to local oversight; diminishing community support and jeopardizing the health of our most precious waterways.

Thank you for your consideration.

Matt Misicka

OCF Joins the the Call for a HAB Coordinator

OCF Joins the the Call for a HAB Coordinator 

April 13, 2016: OCF joined with colleagues to voice support for the creation of an HAB coordinator to provide leadership to the many efforts directed towards curbing harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes.  Read below the letter below written by Kristy Meyers from the Ohio Environmental Council, signed on to by more than 30 conservation-minded organizations from across the region.

Dear Congressman Ryan:

We write in support of H.R. 1923, your bill requiring the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to appoint a Great Lakes Harmful Algal Bloom Coordinator, which is now part of H.R. 223, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015. Thank you for your leadership and for being a champion for our Great Lakes, particularly Lake Erie. Currently there are many efforts underway to reduce the number of harmful algal blooms throughout the Great Lakes, such as in Lake Erie, Saginaw and Green Bays, and Fox River.

These efforts, however, are not always coordinated to leverage resources and share vital information. Appointing a coordinator ensures resources are used effectively and efficiently and that federal, state, and local agencies, tribal governments, universities and nongovernmental organizations are working collaboratively to reduce phosphorus flowing into the Great Lakes.

The first step is a coordinator to ensure everyone is working together to address these complex issues. A coordinator could not come quickly enough. Lake Erie is the canary in the coal mine of what is to come for freshwater bodies if the nation does not solve this problem. In 2015, Lake Erie experienced a HAB that stretched from Michigan to well past Cleveland and was the biggest bloom on record. In 2014 and 2013, residents in the Toledo area and Carroll Township, respectively, went without tap water because of the toxins produced by these blooms.

As you know, over 30 million people rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water. We must take action now because the longer we wait, the more serious and expensive this problem becomes.

Please let Kristy Meyer with the Ohio Environmental Council know how we can be helpful in seeing this vital piece of legislation become law by contacting her at (614) 4875842 or KMeyer@theOEC.org .

Sincerely,

Heather Taylor Miesle, Executive Director, Ohio Environmental Council

Molly Flanagan, Vice President, Policy, Alliance for the Great Lakes

Carol A. Stepien, Professor of Ecology, Director, Lake Erie Science Center, University of Toledo

George Meyer, Executive Director, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

Sandy Bihn, Executive Director, Lake Erie Waterkeeper, Inc

Jim Stouffer, President, Lake Erie Improvement Association

Mike Shriberg, Regional Executive Director, Great Lakes, National Wildlife Federation

Matt Misicka, President, Ohio Conservation Federation

Paul Pacholski, President, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association

Ray Stewart, President, Ohio Wetland Association

Joy Mulinex, Director of Government Relations, Western Reserve Land Conservancy

Robert Stegmier, National Director, Izaak Walton League of America

Josh Knights, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Chapter

 

Fair Property Tax Assessment for Conservation Acreage

Following Pheasants Forever’s lead, OCF joins the case for lowering taxes on acreage enrolled in conservation programs.  Read the letter to Tax Commissioner Joe Testa below.

February 29, 2016

Dear Commissioner Testa,

I am writing to you on behalf of the membership of the Ohio Conservation Federation.  We represent tens of thousands of sportsmen and women across Ohio.  Our membership includes Buckeye Big Buck Club, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Ohio State Trappers Association, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, National Wildlife Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation, and Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society.

Ohio landowners — including hunters, anglers, trappers, farmers, and ranchers — are concerned about tax evaluation under the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) for lands enrolled in habitat conservation practices.

State, Federal and local conservation programs like the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Agricultural Lands Easement Program, and the Clean Ohio Program benefit all Ohioans through reduced soil erosion, flood control, improved water quality, and increased wildlife habitat.   In return, fixed payments are made to compensate owners for the cost of planting trees and grasses, establishing riparian buffers, and restoring wetlands.  When land is enrolled in these programs, owners forfeit the ability to generate income from crop production on those acres for minimum periods of 10 years, 15 years, or in some cases perpetuity.

Excluding conservation acreage from CAUV while assessing it at anything higher than minimum value, not only burdens current landowners, but also threatens future participation in these vital conservation programs.   We are encouraged that some county auditors recognize that these conservation practices contribute to a healthy environment, populace, and economy and therefor assess them at their current minimum value.

Rather than penalizing landowners for their commitment to conservation;

We ask the Department of Taxation consider new guidelines on evaluating lands enrolled in long term State, Federal and local conservation programs, that provide a fair property tax assessment to those acres that in many cases provide invaluable ecological services to Ohio, but very limited or no income to their owners.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with your staff to discuss these issues in more detail.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Matt

Matt Misicka

President

Ohio Conservation Federation

OCF in DC for Great Lakes Day 2016

OCF president Matt Misicka and vice president Stefan Marsh traveled to the nation’s Capitol  February 23-25, 2016 to work alongside conservation colleagues from across the region, like Ducks Unlimited, the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, and the Healing Our Waters Coalition, on Great Lakes’ issues important to Ohio’s sportsmen and women.

Of key concern was the need to re-authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This program fund projects in five focus areas: toxic substances and areas of concern; invasive species; nearshore health and nonpoint source pollution; habitat and wildlife protection and restoration; accountability, education, monitoring, evaluation, communication and partnerships.  Recent studies by the Brookings Institute and the Trust for Public Lands suggest that for every dollar invested in conservation, four dollars are returned over a ten year period.  Try to top that investment in the stock market!

Protecting the conservation programs in the Farm Bill and creating a coordinator for Harmful Algal Blooms were also part of the messaging.  With so many efforts underway to better understand, predict, and prevent harmful algal blooms, a central command in the form of a HAB Coordinator could facilitate communications and sharing of information amongst researchers, field personnel, policy makers, and the public.

And, never far from the conversation was the need to stop Asian Carp from making further headway towards our Great Lakes. Impeding the spread of this piscine scourge will minimize deleterious impacts on our lakes, protecting the economy and our sporting heritage.  We urged our elected representatives to work quickly and fully fund an array of efforts to further prevent the spread of invasive species from the Mississippi basin into our Great Lakes.

Between Matt and Stefan, eleven Ohio congressional offices and both senate offices were engaged over the two very full days.  It was especially nice to meet and work with Senator Portman’s new legislative director, Patrick Orth, and to get to spend an evening with old friend and fellow hunter and angler Jared Mott, the Northeast-Midwest Institute’s Mississippi River Basin Program Coordinator.

 

OCF Encourages Acquisition of AEP ReCreation Lands

For more than 50 years, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and American Electric Power have worked in cooperation to provide Ohio’s hunters, anglers, trappers, campers, hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers access to a vast tract of reclaimed strip mines known as the ReCreation lands in southeastern Ohio.  In this August 25th, 2015 letter to Governor Kasich, OCF weighs in on the prospects of acquiring a large contiguous tract of fields and forests, including 1500 acres of ponds and impoundments…

Re: State of Ohio’s Acquisition of AEP Lands for Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping

Dear Governor Kasich,

The Ohio Conservation Federation is an organization working on behalf of anglers, hunters and trappers in our state.  Our coalition represents some of the most dynamic and effective sportsmen’s groups that includes: Buckeye Big Buck Club, Buckeye Firearms Association, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Ohio State Trappers Association, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society.

We are writing today to ask for the full-fledged support of you and the State of Ohio in working with American Electric Power to acquire and conserve the lands known as “ReCreation Land” in east central Ohio.  For more than 50 years, American Electric Power has most graciously made this 39,000 acre reclamation region available free as public land for conservation and outdoor recreation.  The Division of Wildlife has worked hand in hand with the company over the 50 years to improve the land and make it a great place to hunt, fish and trap.

American Electric Power is now ready to transition the land out of their ownership.  The company has talked about this transition with ODNR and the Division of Wildlife over the last decade.

The Ohio Conservation Federation enthusiastically supports the Division of Wildlife and ODNR purchasing the “ReCreation Land” from American Electric Power.  We believe this would be great utilization of the license fees and excise tax dollars spent by our membership.  Furthermore, we believe this is a once in a generation opportunity to do something great for the people of Ohio who enjoy nature, the outdoors and outdoor recreation.

One of the 2015 Initiatives of the Ohio Conservation Federation states – “Encourage the Division of Wildlife and other entities to work to increase the amount of land for hunting, trapping and fishing available to the public through purchase, easement or agreement.”  Ohio ranks woefully near the bottom of the states in public land for outdoor recreation. Acquiring the “ReCreation Land” would be a legacy accomplishment.

On behalf of the Ohio Conservation Federation, I would welcome the opportunity to personally meet with some of your staff in the near future and plan how we could support this great endeavor.

Sincerely,

Matt Misicka

HB 490 Reaches the Senate Ag Committee.

…and so does OCF’s opponent testimony.  The following opponent testimony was submitted in writing to the Senate Agriculture Committee and circulated to the offices of Senate leadership.

November 28, 2014

Chairman Hite, Vice Chair Balderson, Ranking Member Gentile, and Members of the Committee: My name is Matt Misicka and I am the Vice President of the Ohio Conservation Federation.

On behalf of the Ohio Conservation Federation (OCF) and the thousands of Ohio sportsmen and women that its members Buckeye Big Bucks Club, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, and Pheasants Forever represent, I am writing to you today to express our concerns regarding proposed amendments to HB 490 pertaining to (1) the issuance of free deer and turkey permits to any person assisting a mobility impaired hunter, (2) the creation of “deer sanctuary” permits, and (3) House-added language that is in conflict with the Great Lakes Compact.

HB 490’s proposal of free licenses and permits to mobility-impaired hunters and those assisting with the hunt, should be removed.  As written, there are no standard definitions of what constitutes impaired mobility, the type or number of assistants, or duration of the validity of the free licenses and permits. This overly broad perspective is poised for misuse, and as DOW has already issued a directive regarding non-hunting assistants in the field, inclusion of this amendment is unwarranted.

Ohio’s sportsmen and women are overwhelmingly supportive of the Division of Wildlife’s management of our white-tailed deer herd.  DOW’s biologist’s thoughtful scientific approach has developed a strong, healthy deer population, making Ohio a top 10 destination for deer hunting and creating a vibrant economy wrapped around this important natural resource.

OCF strongly opposes the amendment to create “deer sanctuary” permits.  With an economically successful wild population of more than 700,000 wild white-tailed deer in the state, the risks/benefits of creating such permits do not justify the inclusion of such an amendment.  When mistakenly taken from their natural habitat by the well-meaning, the 9 out of 10 fawns “rescued” that are not actually orphaned or abandoned have little chance of surviving if/when returned to the wild.

In light of the recent discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a captive herd in Holmes County, the risk of introducing or transmitting CWD is magnified whenever and wherever deer are confined or raised in captivity. In 2009 the Division of Wildlife (DOW), with the support of the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, implemented a law prohibiting the rehabilitation of deer and fawns in Ohio.  We feel it is in the long-term interest of Ohio and its wild white-tailed deer that regulatory authority remain with the Division of Wildlife, not the Department of Agriculture.

Lastly, OCF and its members are very concerned with water quality and quantity in Lake Erie and its tributaries.  HB 490’s re-definition of “adverse impacts” is a threat to the entire Lake Erie watershed, its fisheries, and its fisherman.  Alongside deer hunting, Lake Erie’s walleye, perch, and waterfowl provide the foundation of a sustainable multi-billion dollar outdoor industry that employs directly or indirectly tens of thousands of Ohioans. Until a clear definition of “adverse impacts” based upon the best science available that takes into account impacts on habitat, flow rate, and water chemistry, OCF urges that this language be stripped from this bill.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony regarding our concerns with HB 490. The Ohio Conservation Federation stands ready to assist Members of this Committee, the Department of Natural Resources, the Governor, and related stakeholders in finding common ground on these issues.

Conserving our world-class waters and wildlife is essential to the health of our state, economy, and hunting heritage.

Sincerely,

Matt Misicka Vice President Ohio Conservation Federation