Category Archives: Ohio Conservation

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 Welcomes the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s New Midwestern States Coordinator: Kyle Rorah

20 September, 2014

This past Friday and Saturday, Kyle Rorah, the new Midwestern States Coordinator for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, met with OCF members, DOW brass, and Ohio Sportsmen’s Caucus Chair Senator Joe Uecker.

Founded in 1989, CSF’s mission is to, “work with Congress, governors, and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping.” 

As part of this mission, Kyle will be working closely with sportsmen, conservationists, industry, ODNR staff, and elected officials to promote lines of communication, build momentum, and establish more regular interactions between stakeholders.

To get him started, OCF Vice President Matt Misicka and Kyle met with DOW Chief Scott Zody for an hour on Friday afternoon.  Afterwards, Kyle went on to meet with representatives of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and ended the day with a conference call with Senator Joe Uecker.

On Saturday, Kyle joined OCF’s Policy Director Steve Gray and representatives of Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Ohio State Trappers, the Ohio Wildlife Council, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition at the USSA’s 2014 Rally at the Aladdin Shrine Temple.  Good conversation followed good food and an opportunity to meet allies like the Mitchells from the League of Ohio Sportsmen, DOW Asst Chief Dave Lane and District Manager Korey Brown, and fellow sportsmen like Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club President Bill Otis and Past-President Scott Popplewell, to name just a few.

Today, more than 300 U.S. Senators and Representatives are caucus members. Our very own Congressman Bob Latta is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.  Ohio’s members include: John Boehner (R, Dist-8), Bob Gibbs (R, Dist-7), Bill Johnson (R, Dist-6), Jim Jordan (R, Dist-4), David Joyce (R, Dist-14), Tim Ryan (D, Dist-13), Steve Stivers (R, Dist-15), Pat Tiberi (R, Dist-12), Brad Wenstrup (R, Dist-2), and Senator Rob Portman (R).

Ohio’s Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus leadership includes Chair Senator Joe Uecker (R, Dist-14), Senator Lou Gentile (D, Dist-30), Representative Nick Barborak (D, Dist-5), and Representative Dorothy Pelanda (R, Dist-86).

You can learn much more about the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation at: http://www.sportsmenslink.org.

Kyle, born and raised in that-state-up-north and a graduate of the same, is an avid hunter and angler.  After graduate school at Bards College in New York, he set his sights on tackling the best hunting, fishing and trapping states in America: Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, M!ch!gan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota.

We wish Kyle great success in his important endeavors and look forward to working with him and the CSF on behalf of hunters, anglers, and trappers in the future!

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

U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Annual Legislative Reception

Tuesday March 25th, 2014

Columbus, Ohio: Riffe Center Theatre Lobby

Sportsmen and Women From Across Ohio Connect With Their State Senators and Representatives at USSA Reception.

Vice President Matt Misicka and Policy Director Steve Gray made the most of the casual atmosphere, fine food, and tasty beverages to mix and mingle with friends old and new.

Before the meeting got underway, it was good to catch up with USSA’s Evan Heusinkveld.  At our first annual meeting this past February, OCF presented Evan with a check for membership in the USSA. Evan (VP of Government Affairs) and I talked a little shop, but mostly spoke of family, hunting and dogs. A great way to start the evening.

Early on, Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club past president Scott Popplewell and I got to bend the ears of ODNR Director Jim Zehringer and Deputy Director Karl Gebhardt.  With the pending addition of PCR (Pistol Cartridge Rifles), there is a lot of excitement in the air regarding the 2014 deer season.  Scott, born and raised in New Jersey, assured the Director that even with the proposed increase to non-resident licenses and permit fees that Ohio would still remain a top draw for out of state hunters seeking trophy deer.  Together we praised the division’s plans for developing new deer management units.

When State Senator Chris Widener (R – Dist 10) stopped by to pick up OCF’s membership list and 2014 Initiatives from our table, I took a few minutes to chat with him.  An avid deer hunter, Senator Widener’s views of DOW’s management of the deer herd and wildlife rule-making process differ from many of us.  I don’t believe that our conversation changed any opinions, but keeping an open mind and maintaining avenues for future dialogues is always important.  I’m pretty sure the word of OCF’s name and agenda is getting out there…

I was delighted to be introduced by Larry Moore of Buckeye Firearms Association, who joined OCF in February, to a long-standing member of the BFA leadership team and NRA Board Member, Linda Walker.  Linda has been a tireless advocate for the rights of gun-owners for more than a decade.  I must admit my first question to her was about how cool it was to work with Tom Selleck (also an NRA board member and Ferrari-driving, private-eye, TV star that every young man in the 80’s idolized).  As you might imagine he’s very popular at the NRA’s women’s events and successful at raising money from those same ladies!  Linda encourages everyone to make sure to attend an NRA convention.  Where better to see the biggest hunting and firearms show on Earth!

OCF sponsors and owners of Elkhorn Lake Hunt Club, Sam & Peg Ballou and family (of Bucyrus) made the rounds and chatted with Governor Kasich.  Sam & Peg report a 10% increase in business and a lot of “First Pheasant” pins handed out this past season.  I know my dog and I had plenty of fun chasing birds at their place in Bucyrus, and a couple boys that hunted with us bagged their first birds too.

The evening’s brief program began with the Pledge of Allegiance.  Nick Pinizzotti, President and CEO of USSA, welcomed the gathering of sportsmen, public officials, and legislators before turning the microphone over to DOW Chief Scott Zody.  Chief Zody recognized the many DNR brass in attendance and thanked the sportsmen for the strong turn-out.  Lt. Governor Mary Taylor delivered a brief keynote praising the combined efforts of the USSA and sportsmen community for the hard work. Before heading off to the appetizers, the formal portion of the evening was concluded with a prayer of thanks, safe travels, and grace by past-Chief DOW Mike Budzik.

OCF Policy Director Steve Gray made the rounds, including among many a good chat with Karen Stewart-Linkhart, member of the Ohio State Trappers Association and Chairwoman of the Ohio Wildlife Council.  Steve summarized the evening this way:

“Coming to the annual USSA’s Legislative reception is a great way to connect with sportsmen and stay current with issues and topics important to conservation.  It was great to see that most of our member organizations had representatives at this meeting.”

With turkey season almost upon us, it was good to finally meet Ohio NWTF’s president Matt McDermott.  We chatted about the prospects of NWTF joining OCF. I look forward to Ohio’s NWTF having a seat at the OCF table soon.

As the evening wound down, I got the chance to get re-acquainted with Tom Butch. Tom is an officer of the Columbiana County Federation of Conservation Clubs.  As the name implies, this federation of sportsmen’s clubs provides outreach and advocacy on issues related to hunting, fishing, and trapping at a countywide level.  Tom, a retired ODNR employee, is now on contract with the National Wildlife Federation working on issues related to Lake Erie algal blooms.  As one of OCF’s 2014 Initiatives, Protecting the Quality of Ohio’s Waters pays far-reaching dividends; from wildlife and fishing to clean drinking water and improved public health. Wouldn’t it be nice to make Ohio’s nutrient run-off algal blooms a thing of the past and let Tom retire for good one of these days!

Steve and I ended the evening sharing stories over dinner with Ducks Unlimited’s Doug Gorby.  Although Doug works out of the Ann Arbor, M!ch!gan office, his degree from Ohio State shows how smart he really his!  He and I over-lapped in our time at OSU, but it took a lot of years and a whole lot of miles to finally connect.  It was nice meeting you Doug!  Now, about that duck hunt up on Lake Erie next fall….

The reception was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Buckeye Firearms Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, Pheasants Forever, Safari Club International, and the Ohio Conservation Federation.

Submitted by Vice President Matt Misicka