Monthly Archives: March 2016

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