Category Archives: Ohio DNR

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

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

OCF wishes LWCF a happy 50th birthday… and many more….

September 3rd marks the anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act into Law.    In 1964, this piece of legislation was the culmination of a bipartisan effort aimed at recognizing the value of America’s parks, forests and wildlife refuges as a sound, sustainable financial investment in our future.

LWCF takes a small percentage of the revenues generated by off-shore oil and gas leases and invests that revenue back into outdoor recreation in the form of 3:1 matching funds for projects as varied as public hunting lands and boat ramps, to public tennis courts and swimming pools.

Ohio has benefitted mightily over the years to the tune of $325M since 1964.  LWCF funded projects have included the Ottawa NWR, Cuyahoga Valley NP, Wayne NF, and boating access on the Little Miami River to name just a few.  On tap for 2015 the Divisions of Parks and Forestry are working with partners like The Nature Conservancy, the American Discovery Trail Society, and the Buckeye Trail Association to purchase nearly 800 acres of inholdings in the Shawnee State Forest.  These parcels will be added to Ohio’s working forests; reducing management expenses, supporting sustainable forestry practices, protecting threatened and endangered species, providing public access to hunting, and protecting watersheds.

Now five decades later, Congress is being asked to permanently re-authorize an honestly budgeted LWCF with no less than 1.5 percent of annual LWCF funding directed towards “making public lands public” for the benefit of sportsmen trying to access ever-more-isolated public lands.

This week, OCF’s board voted to sign on to a letter to Senator Rob Portman, thanking him for his support of LWCF in 2012 and again urging him to support SB 338 later this year or early next.

Coming soon, we’ll post a copy of the letter here on our website.  In the meantime, you can learn more about the Land and Water Conservation Fund at www.lwcfcoalition.org.  For a listing of projects carried out in Ohio, visit the National Parks website at http://waso-lwcf.ncrc.nps.gov/public/index.cfm.

OCF Welcomes Buckeye Big Buck Club

24 August 2014

Founded in 1957 to recognize the successful efforts of the Division of Wildlife’s management strategies and the growing quality of Ohio’s trophy-caliber deer hunting,  BBBC’s goals include encouraging trophy whitetail hunting in Ohio, maintaining a permanent record of the hunters and their trophies taken in fair chase hunts, fostering wise use of natural resources, and promoting positive relationships between Ohio’s hunters and landowners.  BBBC’s representative to the OCF board will be the organizations current President, Jerry Weingart.  Welcome Jerry and Welcome Buckeye Big Buck Club!

You can learn more about Buckeye Big Buck Club from their website www.buckeyebigbuckclub.org .

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

 

 

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

OCF Attends DOW Deer Hunter Summit

OCF Attends First DOW Deer Hunter Summit

Alongside 25 prominent sportsmen & women, including Gary Oates (Board member, USSA), Cheryl Leffman (President, Ohio Bowhunters Assoc.), John Hobbs (VP, League of Ohio Sportsmen), Larry Moore (Buckeye Firearms Assoc.), Scott Popplewell (Past President, Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters), Lonnie Sparkman (Lake County Rod and Gun Club), Tom Young (Whitetails Unlimited), and Mike Betts (Betts Archery, Arcadia Ohio) amongst others, OCF’s Vice President Matt Misicka attended the first DOW Deer Hunter Summit:

Deer Hunter Summit

17 March 2014

Columbus, Ohio: DOW District One Headquarters

The meeting, facilitated by Susie Vance (Executive Administrator for Information and Education), began with the participants introducing themselves, who they represented, and what issues were key to them.  Given the opportunity, I echoed the sentiments of Gary Oates and John Hobbs regarding the importance of protecting the process of DOW rule-making; from informed, science-based proposals through unfettered approval by the Wildlife Council and JCARR (Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review).

Leading off the event was Ken Fitz (Executive Administrator of Law Enforcement) reporting on the past history, hard work, and recent developments that lead to the creation of a Pistol-Cartridge-Rifle proposal for the 2014 deer season.  If approved by the Wildlife Council and JCARR, Ohio hunters will be allowed to use rifles chambered for straight-walled pistol cartridges for the first time ever this season.  The Buckeye Firearms Association was a driving force behind this process and their due diligence in getting the Ohio Farm Bureau on board was instrumental.

Next up was DOW Deer Biologist Mike Tonkovich.  Mike talked about the ”most successful, least understood deer management tool”; the $15 antlerless deer permit.  Proposed changes are in the works for this coming season that will result in fewer doe tags being available in some areas.  Approaching the deer density goals set many years ago is like landing an airplane on a windy day; as you get closer to the end of the runway, it means adjusting a little up, a little down, a little left, a little right.  DOW’s team of experts are piloting the state’s deer herd in for as smooth a landing as possible in an effort to keep all their passengers as happy as possible. Mike concluded by introducing the newest addition to DOW’s deer management team, Deer Biologist Clint McCoy.

Clint laid out for the audience perhaps the most exciting news of the evening; new Deer Management Units are under development.  Working with an OSU post-doc to gather and analyze the best data available, DOW will gather detailed information from hunters regarding harvest rates and use landscape features rather than county lines to establish up to six regional units.  Over the next two years, those units will be further divided and refined using major roads and rivers as boundaries.

Lastly, DOW Chief Scott Zody addressed the requested increase to non-resident hunting licenses and deer permits.  With the additional money raised, DOW will better able to leverage the influx of Pittman Robertson funds for projects including long-term shooting range projects, expanding archery ranges in Metro parks and State parks, and strategic land purchases that don’t add significantly to maintenance and management costs.  Even with the increase, the health and quality of Ohio’s deer herd is expected to keep out-of-state hunters booking hotel rooms, buying groceries and spending money in communities around the state from October through January.

The evening wrapped up with an open period of questions & answers.  Overall the participants were happy with the meeting. The published summary included numerous comments supportive of the division’s direction, wished it could have lasted longer, and hoped that meetings would occur in all the districts in the future.  Participants reported that hunter access, nuisance permits, herd health & size, non-resident fees, and keeping politics out of the rule-making process remain high on the list of future concerns.

Thanks to the Division for putting on this event!

Submitted by Matt Misicka

Sportsmen’s Caucus Meeting (Feb 19)

 

Sportsmen’s Caucus Meeting

Wednesday February 19th, 2014

Senate Finance Room, Ohio Statehouse

Unprecedented Meeting: Ohio Division of Wildlife Meets With Members of the Legislature to Explain Proposed Deer Hunting Regulations.

Included amongst the nine Initiatives adopted by the membership of the Ohio Conservation Federation at its inaugural meeting on February 15th, was one directing the OCF to work to support the time tested, successful Wildlife Council system in Ohio and protect the Council from undue political influence.   Work on this Initiative began right away.

OCF’s Vice President Matt Misicka and Policy Director Steve Gray participated in a meeting at the Statehouse facilitated by Senator Joe Uecker (R – Dist 14), chair of the Ohio Legislature’s Sportsmen’s Caucus. The topic of the hour-long meeting focused on the 2014-2015 hunting season’s deer regulations.  Division of Wildlife’s Chief Scott Zody, Assistant Chief Tom Rowan, and Wildlife Management & Research Administrator Dave Kohler gave presentations that included (1) a report on the history and current status of the deer herd in Ohio, (2) the proposed 2014-2015 changes to the county deer bag limits, and (3) the background on the proposed inclusion of rifles chambered for straight-walled pistol cartridges.

State Senator Chris Widener (R – Dist 10) and Allen Armstrong a South Charleston, Ohio farmer and board member of the Ohio Soybean Association engaged the DOW’s representatives with several questions concerning the accuracy of DOW’s assessment of the size of the deer herd and suggested both a return to more liberal bag limits and reinstating the Bonus Weekend.  As has often been the case, where farmers see too many deer and want seasons opened, hunters see too few and want the herd size increased.  Based upon the data presented, collected from 2013 harvest statistics and the number of ODOT reported deer/auto collisions, the deer population appears to being steadily decreasing as planned towards the targeted levels established many years back.  Subsequently, like landing an airplane on a fast approaching runway, the biologists at DOW are trying to make small adjustments to the bag limits to bring the herd and the public’s expectations into a sustainable balance while at the same time generating continued interest by giving deer hunters the opportunity to use rifles chambered for a select set of pistol cartridges for the very first time.

Alongside the OCF, five other groups were represented: Larry Moore (Buckeye Firearms Assoc), John Hobbs (Ohio Bowhunters Assoc), Larry Mitchell (League of Ohio Sportsmen), Evan Heusinkveld and Adam Wright  (US Sportsmen’s’ Alliance), and Mike Rex (Buckeye Big Buck Club).

Submitted by Matt Misicka