Monthly Archives: May 2014

OCF at the Statehouse

29 May, 2014

Last week (May 22nd), the proposed Non-resident fee increase for deer hunting was quietly removed from the Ohio Senate’s version of the mid-biennium budget review (MBR). This came as a surprise as to that point the proposal submitted by ODNR had only overwhelming support from sportsmen’s groups and an apparent lack of any opposition.  Previously, this fee increase had been approved by the Ohio House of Representatives as part of HB 483.

Now, the entire package of MBR legislation is in the hands of an appointed six-person conference committee, consisting of members of both chambers and both parties, that will attempt to negotiate a compromise on all the differences before the general assembly breaks for the summer.

The potential $3 million that could be generated by this increase will provide vital matching funds to recover as much of the record-high federal Pittman-Robertson funding as possible.  For every firearm, bow, box of ammo, or six-pack of arrows, sportsmen and women incur an excise tax (PR) that is remitted to the federal gov’t and then reapportioned to the states based upon the number of paid hunting licenses and permits sold each year.  At a ratio of 25:75, this $3 million can leverage $9 million additional dollars to be used for land acquisition from willing sellers, shooting range improvements, archery-in-the-schools programs, hunter education, and other projects beneficial to resident and non-resident sportsmen alike.

So, Steve Gray and I fashioned a concise letter, re-affirming OCF’s support for the proposed NR fee increase, and headed off to the Statehouse Thursday morning to hand deliver the message to the six conferees and both House and Senate leadership.  And, we were not alone in voicing our support.  OCF Member Buckeye Firearms Association sent a letter of support and OCF Partner U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Adam Wright and Tony Celebrezze were knocking on office doors later in the day.

Let’s hope our collective efforts make a positive impact and get this fee increase re-instated into the MBR before time runs out.

 

Protecting Ohio Water Quality

May 23rd, 2014

From OCF’s 2014 Initiatives: Protect Ohio Water Quality – Support intensified efforts to control harmful algal blooms and other factors that harm drinking water and negatively impact fish and wildlife in Ohio’s lakes, streams, and wetlands.

Earlier this week, OCF was asked to participate in a telephone press conference on the value of the restoring  protections afforded wetlands and tributaries under the 1972 Clean Water Act that had been muddied by Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006.  These waters, so important to wildlife, are integral to our hunting, fishing and trapping heritage. Subsequent to these Supreme Court rulings, the rate of wetlands loss across the U.S. increased by 140 percent (2004-2009).

The new rule, proposed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, with participation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, restores some, but not all protections, to many vulnerable streams and wetlands. The clarifying language in the rule preserves the existing exemptions for farming, forestry, mining and other land use activities and explicitly excludes many upland water features important to farming and forestry.

Balancing the needs of safe drinking water, wildlife habitat, and ag and industrial uses is as complex an issue as any we as sportsmen, farmers, businesses, and citizens face.

I was asked to prepare a 2-3 minute long statement, the text of which is below:

21 May 2014

Re: WOTUS Press Call

Dear Colleagues,

My name is Matt Misicka, I am the Vice President of the Ohio Conservation Federation. The Federation represents a collaboration between national, statewide, and regional organizations in Ohio. Our membership includes the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Pheasants Forever, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, the Ohio State Trappers Association, and the National Wildlife Federation. Combined, these groups count more than 70,000 Ohioans as members. At our inaugural meeting this past February, representatives of our member organizations placed Pro-Actively Supporting Legislation Beneficial to Conservation and Protecting Ohio Water Quality among our nine 2014 Initiatives.

Putting aside the obvious value of safe drinking water, of key importance to Ohio’s 1.5 million hunters, anglers and trappers is the significant protections the WOTUS rule reinstates to Ohio’s critical wetlands and seasonal, intermittent and ephemeral streams. Left vulnerable or unprotected by the 2001 and 2006 SCOTUS rulings, the proposed WOTUS ruling, supported by more than 1000 pieces of peer-reviewed scientific literature, provides needed guidance regarding protection for those bodies of water that provide fundamental habitat and food for Ohio’s fish, furbearers, and waterfowl.

Ohio’s waters fuel a sustainable hunting, fishing, and trapping economic engine worth nearly $3 billion per year and employing more than 34,000. Add to that sum recreational boating (400,000 licensed boats in Ohio) and wildlife watching and that value nearly doubles. Clean, productive waters are essential to Ohio’s sporting heritage and outdoor economy.

Water is a unique natural resource. Unlike forests and minerals, water is always on the move; whether into the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration, percolating through soil and bedrock, or carried by currents downstream. Science clearly shows strong evidence linking the protection of wetlands and tributaries to the quality of drinking water and wildlife habitat. Agricultural, industrial, municipal, and outdoor interests each have a share in the responsibility for ensuring safe drinking water, productive wildlife habitat, essential industries, and a complex economy. This ruling helps restore clarity to those responsibilities for both the regulators and the potentially regulated, without broadening the historical coverage of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in effect from 1972-2000.

Let me conclude by reminding everyone that it was the burning of Ohio’s Cuyahoga river in 1969 that is most often pointed to as the seminal event that lead to the original, bi-partisan creation of the CWA in 1972. While work remains to be done on that watershed, that same once dead crooked river, provided the protections of the CWA, now lends its name to the 33,000 acre Cuyahoga Valley N.P., visited by 2-3 million visitors a year, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons, beaver, bass, and steelhead trout. This is a shining example of what clear, thoughtful, clean water legislation can accomplish.

The WOTUS clarifications provided by this ruling ultimately help to protect Ohio’s sporting heritage and maintain its thriving outdoor economy by restoring protections to the those waters that sportsmen and women care about the most.

If I can be of any further assistance, or can answer any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Sincerely,

Matt Misicka
Vice President, Ohio Conservation Federation

Also on the call was Karen Hobbs representing the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Media on the call included: the Detroit News, Erie (PA) Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, PennLive and several others…

Welcome to ODNR Deputy Director Boyles

14 May 2014

In April, Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler tapped ODNR’s Deputy Director Karl Gebhardt to be the new Chief of the Division of Surface Water and Deputy Director of Water Resources.  Shortly thereafter, ODNR Director Jim Zehringer promoted Bob Boyles, a 31 yr veteran of ODNR, to be the Deputy Director over the Divisions of Forestry, Mineral Resources Management, and Wildlife as well as continuing his role as State Forester and Chief of the Division of Forestry.  According to an ODNR announcement, Boyles has his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Forestry from West Virginia University and has served leadership roles in Ohio’s National Wild Turkey Federation and is a member of the Ruffed Grouse Society.  Myself, Steve Gray (OCF Policy Director), Marc Smith (OCF BOD and National Wildlife Federation Senior Policy Manager), and Gildo Tori (OCF BOD and Ducks Unlimited, Director of Public Policy) sat down with Deputy Director Boyles and Deputy Director Andy Ware (ODNR Divisions of Soil & Water and Coastal Management) to open a dialogue about natural resource conservation in Ohio, the Division of Wildlife, and introduce them to OCF’s 2014 Initiatives.  The text of a post-meeting thank you letter is included below:

13 May 2014

Re: Meeting of May 12th

Dear Deputy Director Boyles,

On behalf of the Ohio Conservation Federation and its members, thank you for meeting with myself, Steve Gray (OCF), Marc Smith (NWF) and Gildo Tori (DU).  It was great to have the opportunity to sit down with you and Andy Ware to discuss natural resources management in Ohio and the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

OCF and its members look forward to working with you and the Department of Natural Resources on issues important to Ohio’s sportsmen & women today. Moving ahead, our focus will be to work collaboratively wherever possible with ODNR on OCF’s 2014 Initiatives developed by our board earlier this year.

To reiterate from our conversation, OCF is concerned about the burden of direct charge backs to the DOW and the other divisions, we are proud of the Ohio’s Wildlife Officer system and want to make sure it is protected and supported, and we want to support the ODNR as an agency by striving for professionally educated and trained employees and administrators responsible for managing Ohio’s natural resources.

We are pleased with the recent appointments of Eric Hirzel and Tom Vorisek to the Ohio Wildlife Council. OCF will support the time tested wildlife council system and help protect it from undue political influence.

Wildlife diversity and endangered species management is very important to the OCF and we will support efforts to protect and conserve threatened, endangered, and non-game species.

We encourage ODNR’s efforts to control harmful algal blooms in places like Grand Lake Saint Marys and Lake Erie. Likewise, OCF supports and would welcome the opportunity to be involved with the Regional Conservation Partnership Program provisions in the federal Farm Bill developed to improve conservation practices on agricultural lands in Ohio.

Once again, thank you for meeting with us. We look forward to continuing to build our relationship with you as we share in the efforts to help you and others in ODNR accomplish its mission. Please feel free to contact us if we can help you advance our collective conservation goals.

Sincerely,

Matt Misicka

Matt Misicka

Vice President, Ohio Conservation Federation

www.ohioconservationfederation.com

E-mail: mattmisicka@gmail.com

Phone: (614) 581-9283

 

Cc:       James Zehringer, Director

Andy Ware, Deputy Director

Proponent Testimony Submitted for Non-Res Hunting Fee Increase

8 May 2014

Ohio Statehouse, Senate Finance Committee

Today, alongside Adam Wright & Tony Celebrezze (USSA), Larry Mitchell (LOOS), Dan Schneider & Roger Burns (PF), Vicki Mountz, and DOW Chief Scott Zody, I spent the morning at the state house prepared to give proponent testimony supporting DOW’s proposed increase to Non-Resident Hunting Licenses and the creation of a Non-Resident Deer permit.  While I have given opponent testimony on the House side before, I had never given proponent testimony or presented before a senate committee.  As we learned today, unlike a house hearing where one can walk-in, sign-in, and present, it takes pre-registration with the Committee chair’s office at least 24 hours in advance.  You learn something new everyday!  I was able to submit a written copy of the testimony below for the record.

To:          The Honorable Senator Scott Oelslager, Chair, Ohio Senate Finance Committee, MBR Appropriations – 2nd Hearing – Proponent

From:   Ohio Conservation Federation

Re:          Support for Proposed Increase to Non-Resident Hunting Fees (HB 483)

Dear Senators,

Ohio’s reputation for trophy-class white-tailed deer hunting has the Buckeye State regarded nationally as a Top Ten deer-hunting destination, annually selling 38,000 hunting licenses and 41,000 deer permits to non-residents.  Long considered an undervalued state when it comes to charging non-residents to hunt whitetails, the Ohio Conservation Federation’s membership, including the Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, and Pheasants Forever, supports the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ proposed modest, non-punitive fee increase for non-residents, with revenues intended to take fullest advantage of available Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Funding.

The proposed increase from $149 to $250 for a Non-Resident hunting license plus a Non-Resident either sex deer permit would move Ohio from 35th to 17th nationally in costs to hunt deer. Even with the proposed increase, Ohio remains an attractive destination, well below the average of the Top Ten deer-hunting states ($400). As part of ODNR’s commitment to increase youth participation in outdoor recreation, the proposed increase does not include a change to the price of licenses for non-resident youth.

Conservatively, even in the unlikely event of a 10-20% decrease in non-resident hunters, revenue is expected to increase by an estimated $3-3.5 million.  The funds from the fee increase will help the Division of Wildlife (DOW) meet the 25% state match requirements, ensuring that we are better able to leverage increasing P-R funding. The additional funds will help the DOW maintain current service levels to both resident and non-resident hunters, anglers and trappers as well as attract new potential customers by improving recruitment, retention and re-activation of sportsmen and women.

Currently, the DOW is in the design phase of a multi-year grant to relocate the Delaware Shooting Range, a fully eligible P-R project with an estimated $5 million total budget ($3.8m P-R share). While there are also plans to improve and develop shooting and archery ranges across the state, a wide variety of other critical projects exist including habitat maintenance & restoration, wildlife research, survey & inventory, facilities operation & development, and hunter education.  In each of these cases, timing and success are dependent upon the availability of cash to match.  The fee increase proposed in the MBR legislation HB 483 is critical to DOW’s ability to successfully carry out these projects in a timely manner.  To the benefit of Ohio’s outdoor heritage, its resident sportsmen and women, and non-resident guests, OCF urges the Ohio Senate to ensure the non-resident license fee increases remain intact in HB 483.

Sincerely,

Matt Misicka