Category Archives: Testimony

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

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