Monthly Archives: November 2014

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

More HB 490 Efforts

Also coming to light last week was an amendment to the omnibus legislation HB 490 that is intended to define the meaning of “adverse impact” in such a way that likely threatens both the health of Lake Erie’s waters and the implementation of the Great Lakes Compact.  Time for another letter, the text of which is below:

Ohio House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources

Opponent Testimony

SUB. H.B. 490

November 14, 2014

Chairman Hall, Vice Chair Thompson, Ranking Member Cera, 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 that define “significant adverse impact” in such a way that threatens the productivity of Lake Erie, the safety of public drinking water, and the validity of the Great Lakes Compact approved by Ohio and ratified by Congress in 2008.

Maintaining the health of Lake Erie is vital to Ohio’s economy.  Whether it is safe guarding the walleye and perch that so many of us love to pursue and the livelihoods of charter boat captains and crews, or protecting the western basin’s marshes that provide essential habitat for the ducks that waterfowlers and their guides hunt from one end of the state to the other.

The new proposed language is in direct conflict with the compact requirements in that it measures only the physical impact of withdraws without considering impacts to water chemistry (concentration of pollutants such as phosphorus) or wildlife.

OCF is supportive of the changes recommended by a diverse group of conservation-minded organizations including Ducks Unlimited and National Wildlife Federation. These groups have suggested the following language intended to scientifically evaluate the impacts of withdraws: striking lines 4524-4537 and 4557-4576 and replacing lines 4557-4576 with the following language:

(a) Significant impacts to an important function of the ecosystem of the source watershed shall include, but not limited to, the following:


(i) Interruption of a primary spawning area of a threatened or endangered species of fish;

(ii) Significant loss of productivity or habitat of a characteristic sport fish or commercial fish species in a direct tributary;

(iii) Impairment of the chemistry, sediment, temperature, or flow dynamics in the river mouth of a tributary such that one or more of the significant habitat functions of habitats on or near the lake shore are materially impaired;


(iv) Lowering of water levels in a tributary to a point that interferes with commercial navigation in a port.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony regarding our concerns with HB 490 and the future of Lake Erie.  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.  Protecting Lake Erie, its tributaries, and surrounding communities is essential to the health of our wildlife, economy, and hunting, angling, and trapping heritage.

Sincerely,

Matt Misicka

Vice President

Ohio Conservation Federation

 

Ohio House Considers HB 490

14 November 2014

This week and next, the Ohio House’s Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources is hearing testimony on HB 490.  HB 490 includes many proposed law changes that would impact the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture.  OCF has entered the fray with a letter to Committee Chair David Hall (R – Dist 70).  The text of the letter is below:

Dear Representative Hall,

On behalf of the Ohio Conservation Federation (OCF) and the thousands of Ohio sportsmen and women that its members Buckeye Big Buck Club, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, and Pheasants Forever represent, I am writing to you today to express both our thanks and concerns regarding several items contained in HB 490.

OCF was glad to learn that the language in HB 490 pertaining to the issuance of free deer and turkey permits to any person assisting a “mobility impaired” hunter has been removed.  This overly broad proposal was poised for misuse, and as DOW had previously issued a directive regarding non-hunting assistants in the field, inclusion of this amendment was unwarranted.

We strongly encourage the removal of the amendment to create “deer sanctuary” permits.  With an economically successful wild population of more than 700,000 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 threat of spreading CWD is magnified when and wherever deer are 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 deer that regulatory authority remain with the Division of Wildlife, not the Department of Agriculture.

Lastly, as part of its 2014 Members’ Initiatives, OCF remains a strong proponent of the moderate, non-punitive fee increase for non-residents suggested by DOW and we urge the re-instatement of that language back into HB 490.  This increase, when leveraged with record levels of available Pittman-Robertson funds, can positively impact urgently needed projects beneficial to Ohio’s sportsmen and wildlife.

Moving forward, OCF pledges to assist you however we can in your efforts to make these modifications. We ask that we be able to schedule a meeting with you and a small group of our members between now and December 1st.

Sincerely,

Matt Misicka