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Ohio Conservation Federation hosts roundtable with Senator Portman

Larry S. Moore, Contributing Writer

Many of the leaders of the Ohio Conservation Federation (OCF) headed to Medina and the Hill N Dale Club for a morning of pheasant hunting and a discussion of sportsmen conservation issues.  Senator Rob Portman joined the group for the hunt and to discuss the issues important to the leaders. OCF leadership included Matt Misicka, OCF President; Steve Gray, OCF Policy Director; Lee Crocker, NWTF Regional Biologist; Jim Inglis, Pheasants Forever Director of Governmental Affairs; Larry Moore, Buckeye Firearms Association Sportsman Leader; and Harry Kinnison, Ohio State Trappers Vice President. The roundtable was joined by additional conservation leaders.

The club offers some of the finest sporting clays courses in Ohio. The morning was bright and crisp conditions, nearly perfect for a pheasant hunt. Even at the end of February the fields had plenty of cover for the pheasants. The pheasants were strong and flew quickly requiring some fine shooting.  Everyone agreed that the weather, the birds and the dogs combined to make an outstanding pheasant hunt. Back at the clubhouse it was time to discuss the issues.

Senator Portman opened the roundtable discussion with an update on Lake Erie. The Senator said, “I want to address what is going on with Lake Erie algae blooms. We’ve focused a lot on that in the last six years. There are at least four different bills including the Clean Water Bill. One is requiring the federal agencies, including NOAA, to come create a report, which is due in September, on the algae blooms. We’ve made progress in the last four years including setting the 40% reduction of nitrogen and phosphorous levels. I’ve worked with the farm bureau to take the lead on conservation. Most farmers in the critical Maumee Basin are doing conservation efforts.”

He continued addressing the invasive species concerns, “I am now the co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force. We are going to be more aggressive with the US Army Corps on invasive species. We need to address how to keep the carp out. There are issues with the Chicago River and environmental DNA has been discovered in the lake. We need to ensure the Army Corps is doing everything possible with the latest technology. We’ve spent some money on the issue and are willing to spend more. The Army Corps needs provide the best technology. The issues scares me because the carp keep moving closer.”

The next question raised addressed concerns about the Great Lakes Restoration issues. Portman responded, “We did get the full funding and exceeded the request in the Obama Budget. We got the authorization and the appropriation. This is doing a lot of good work. We want to get it used properly. The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act would not have happened without sportsmen support.”

Finally the micro-bead issue and legislation was addressed. Lake Erie around Cleveland has some of the highest concentration of micro-beads. Portman noted, “We worked with industry and environmentalists, who wanted more restrictions. The micro-beads are getting phased out. This is a good example of working in a bi-partisan effort to make the necessary changes.”

There are a number of wide-ranging environmental and conservation issues facing Ohio and our nation. One is the Stream Protection rule which has been widely reported recently. There are water quality concerns in southeastern Ohio coal mines. The Senator reported, “The rewrite doesn’t impact the main rule which was put into place in 1983. It is usually referred to as the Stream Buffer Rule. I’ve been down in the coal mines to understand what was being considered. The coal people argued that coal reserves as far down as 600 feet would become off limits. On the surface is drainage whether you call it a creek or maybe just a wet spot during spring rains. I think it was an over reach. The courts had stopped it for review so the rule was not yet implemented. The Trump Administration put this out under the Congressional Review Act and it was repealed.”

OCF Policy Director Steve Gray addressed the public land access issue saying, “Ohio ranks very low in public land for hunting, fishing and trapping. Any time we can keep public land open in Ohio it is critical, The federal level faces  moves to return land to the states, privatize land or sell it. We need your help to keep the public lands public.”

Senator Portman responded, “I am on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and taken a lead on parks. Ohio doesn’t have as many parks as other states. It is an interesting opportunity to talk about the issues from a different perspective. Last December we did pass the National Parks Centennial Act. It helps establish better boundaries and funding for the parks through public and private foundation grant program. Parks are underfunded for infrastructure. The maintenance backlog may be $12 billion. We took a pretty good chunk out of that with this legislation. It is value for the taxpayer. The Sportsman Act, which I am a cosponsor, opens up more land to hunting, fishing and trapping.”

The next item on the roundtable agenda was the farm bill.  Portman explained, “We are back to another farm bill already. In the Senate, so far so good. The farm bill includes some important money for the Great Lakes. A lot of funding for the 40% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorous, came from the last farm bill. I will be focused a lot on ensuring this is in the new bill. Agriculture and conservation is important for Ohio” Gray added, “The Conservation Reserve Program within the farm bill is a winner for both sides. It is good for farms and farming and tremendously good for conservation. There are a lot of key provisions.”

Scott Paschke, Ducks Unlimited Regional Director, asked, “The North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) has been a incredible program. There is currently a letter circulating for appropriations for that program.  Its critical for the Great Lakes and wetlands.”

Gray explained the impact, “The federal duck stamp money, state wetlands stamp money and the DU money all go into this so the money is leveraged several times. One dollar from the act may increase to $4 before it is spent. The leverage aspect is great but it all starts with the seed  money of NAWCA. When you buy a duck state to hunt in Ohio, 40% of that money goes to a project in Canada for breeding grounds. Ohio has been doing this since 1965. NAWCA is an improvement on that. Northern Ohio has a tremendous benefit from this along Magee Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and others across the northern part of Ohio.”

Pete  Novotny (ODNR Division of Wildlife District 3 Manager) asked about shooting ranges saying, “We need to extend the planning cycle from a three year to five year cycle. We need more ranges and the ability to build better ranges to service the shooters and attract new shooters. There are a couple of possible avenues to help with range development. The Pittman-Robertson Act requires a 25% match from the state but perhaps that could be a 10% match. Ranges take a long time to be built so there is a real need for the five-year cycle.”

Gray noted, “There is a real need for people to shoot in Ohio. It’s a real challenge for those living in cities and suburbs. It’s a great luxury that the Pittman-Robertson funds have grown so much with the sales of guns, ammo and archery equipment. The P-R law requires a percentage to be spent on ranges. Shooting ranges are an opportunity to expand the private and public partnership. That has been done at the Cardinal Center complex. It is a public range operated by a private entity. There is a nominal fee but there are no memberships so it is open to the public.

Buckeye Firearms Association expressed concerns about the future of the CMP and NRA National Matches in Ohio at Camp Perry. Some matches have been moved to Indiana. Additionally the CMP has a new modern shooting complex outside Talladega. There is a need to address facilities at Camp Perry to ensure Ohio doesn’t lose these important matches. Ohio cannot afford to let these slip away like the ATA Grand American Trapshoot. Portman assured the group that he will look into the range development, P-R and Camp Perry concerns.

Portman  concluded the meeting, “It is great to be with you. This is an ongoing dialog. I am a hunter and fisherman. Looking past my role as Senator, I am a citizen. Ohio is blessed with a really good sportsmen groups. I don’t know any state that has a stronger base. Let us be a better partner with you. The Lake Erie Charter Boat Association has been not been shy talking about Lake Erie. That is a reason I’ve taken a lead on Lake Erie issues in the Senate. You keep us informed and involved. Anyone with input regarding Lake Erie and other issues, get in touch with our office. Please do not hesitate to contact us.”

Restoring Funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

30 March, 2017

Last month, OCF VP Stefan Marsh and I traveled to Washington DC with a coalition of more than eighty sportsmen & women and conservationists (including colleagues from Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association) from the eight Great Lake States to educate our public officials on the importance of a healthy Lake Erie to Ohio’s hunters, anglers and trappers. Lake Erie, an important source of drinking water, is also a major economic engine in the state of Ohio, supporting a multi-billion dollar fishing, boating, and tourism industry on our north coast.  We were glad to learn this week that nine Ohio congressmen and women signed on to a bipartisan letter in support of restoring funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  Those nine include the letter’s author David Joyce (R – Dist 14), along with Bob Gibbs (R – Dist 7), Jim Renacci (R – Dist 16), Tim Ryan (D – Dist 13), Marcia Fudge (D – Dist 10), Joyce Beatty (D – Dist 10), Bill Johnson (R – Dist 6), Michael Turner (R – Dist 10), and Steve Stivers (R – 15). Thanks to each of you for your support of this important legislation!!

Click the link below to see the full text of the letter:


Ohio Sportsmen and Conservation Organizations Call for Increased Funding

On March 29th, following a successful Legislative Reception hosted by the Athletic Club of Columbus, the Sportsmen’s Alliance and long list of partners announced that collectively, Ohio hunters, anglers and trappers would request an increase in license and permit fees, the first such increase in fourteen years.  The text of the announcement is below

Ohio Sportsmen and Conservation Organizations Call For Increased Funding.

Ohio’s hunters, fishermen and trappers are doing something most citizens never do. They are asking Ohio’s governor, state representatives and state senators to raise the license fees for these activities in Ohio. Concerned about counties with no law enforcement presence, decreasing fish stocking, decreases in wildlife habitat management, and a growing list of projects that need to be done, Ohio’s top conservation groups are united in asking the legislature to allow sportsmen to continue to pay their own way as they have done for decades.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife is funded almost entirely (96%) by sportsmen’s dollars. These funds pay for law enforcement, wildlife habitat enhancements, endangered species programs, fish stocking, boating access, shooting ranges and much more. However, many of these programs have increasingly fallen on hard times because the fees paid by hunters, fishermen and trappers have not been updated for 14 years.

“In 2003, Ohio sportsmen and women promised then-Governor Bob Taft that if he raised license fees that the funds would last for at least ten years,” said Luke Houghton, associate director of state services for the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “We’ve gone well past that mark now, and it’s time to take action. Rising healthcare costs and other increases over the past 14 years have taken their toll on the services sportsmen and women, and all Ohioans, have come to rely upon. We’re asking Governor Kasich and the legislature to address this need by raising license fees.”

Unlike many government agencies that use general taxpayer dollars, Ohio sportsmen gladly pay their own way to ensure quality habitat, great fisheries, and diligent law enforcement. These things have made hunting a $1.4 billion per year economic driver in Ohio, and fishing more than double that at $2.9 billion per year!

“Without an increase however, customer satisfaction will continue to drop, and the hunting and fishing economies with it,” explained Houghton. “Fortunately, this is all preventable because Ohio’s outdoor community is willing to pay for the needed improvements.”

The Sportsmen’s Alliance, along with 22 other conservation organizations are asking the legislature to address the issue by taking two steps. First, by addressing the cost of non-resident deer hunting in Ohio, which is the lowest of any quality whitetail deer hunting state in the country at $149 for a license and tag. The average for other high-quality deer states is $393, with the lowest cost states around $250. By raising the cost of nonresident deer hunting to $250, Ohio will remain attractive to the current 40,000 non-residents who hunt here, while decreasing the burden faced by resident hunters and anglers.

Second, by addressing the inequity on non-resident costs, the increase on resident hunting and fishing fees could be a modest $3. The two user fee increases are fair to non-residents, and modest on Ohioans. More importantly, they will provide the funds to solve the issues that concern Ohio’s sportsmen.

In addition to the Sportsmen’s Alliance, supporters of these changes include: the Ohio Conservation Federation; Ohio Chapter, National Wild Turkey Federation; National Wild Turkey Federation; Ducks Unlimited Ohio; Pheasants Forever; Buckeye Big Buck Club; Ohio State Trappers Association; Lake Erie Charter Boat Association; Ohio Bowhunters Association; Ohio Bass Federation; Ohio Husky Musky Club; League of Ohio Sportsmen; Trout Unlimited; Ruffed Grouse Society; Rocky Brands; National Wildlife Federation; Gallia County Conservation Club; Quail Forever; Turn-In-Poacher; SW Ohio Chapter Safari Club International; Northern Ohio Chapter Safari Club International; and the Stark County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.


OCF Weighs in on S.B. 293

27 April 2016

OCF’s President, Matt Misicka, joined colleagues Luke Houghton and Rob Sexton (Sportsmen’s Alliance), Jack Shaner (Ohio Environmental Council), Tom Butch (Columbiana County Federation of Conservation Clubs), Larry Mitchell (League of Ohio Sportsmen), and three members of the Conneaut Creek Advisory Council, to provide opponent testimony to various aspects of S.B. 293 before the Senate committee on Government Oversight and Reform.

A summary of the testimony is below:

Chairman Coley and Members of the Committee,

I am writing today on behalf of the Ohio Conservation Federation (OCF) and its membership, which includes:

Buckeye Big Buck Club, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, and the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society.

OCF is opposed to the creation of Natural Resource Officers in S.B.293.  We are concerned that the bill will result in a natural resource police force under a third party law enforcement section or division, further politicizing ODNR by taking away authority from the chiefs of divisions.  Concurrently, we worry that previously dedicated watercraft license fees and fuel tax, paid by sportsmen and other boaters, may be used for other expenses within ODNR.

Likewise, OCF joins the League of Ohio Sportsmen in its opposition to the consolidation of Ohio’s fourteen Scenic Rivers Advisory Boards into a single board. At its annual meeting in February, the League of Ohio Sportsmen passed a resolution in support of maintaining the current status of the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Advisory Councils within ODNR. Perhaps now more than ever, Ohio needs more, not less, citizen involvement and oversight of natural resources management. With many of Ohio’s streams and rivers imperiled, the Maumee River and its tributaries a prime example, OCF opposes S.B. 293 in its current form. We view this consolidation as a threat to local oversight; diminishing community support and jeopardizing the health of our most precious waterways.

Thank you for your consideration.

Matt Misicka

OCF Joins the the Call for a HAB Coordinator

OCF Joins the the Call for a HAB Coordinator 

April 13, 2016: OCF joined with colleagues to voice support for the creation of an HAB coordinator to provide leadership to the many efforts directed towards curbing harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes.  Read below the letter below written by Kristy Meyers from the Ohio Environmental Council, signed on to by more than 30 conservation-minded organizations from across the region.

Dear Congressman Ryan:

We write in support of H.R. 1923, your bill requiring the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to appoint a Great Lakes Harmful Algal Bloom Coordinator, which is now part of H.R. 223, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015. Thank you for your leadership and for being a champion for our Great Lakes, particularly Lake Erie. Currently there are many efforts underway to reduce the number of harmful algal blooms throughout the Great Lakes, such as in Lake Erie, Saginaw and Green Bays, and Fox River.

These efforts, however, are not always coordinated to leverage resources and share vital information. Appointing a coordinator ensures resources are used effectively and efficiently and that federal, state, and local agencies, tribal governments, universities and nongovernmental organizations are working collaboratively to reduce phosphorus flowing into the Great Lakes.

The first step is a coordinator to ensure everyone is working together to address these complex issues. A coordinator could not come quickly enough. Lake Erie is the canary in the coal mine of what is to come for freshwater bodies if the nation does not solve this problem. In 2015, Lake Erie experienced a HAB that stretched from Michigan to well past Cleveland and was the biggest bloom on record. In 2014 and 2013, residents in the Toledo area and Carroll Township, respectively, went without tap water because of the toxins produced by these blooms.

As you know, over 30 million people rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water. We must take action now because the longer we wait, the more serious and expensive this problem becomes.

Please let Kristy Meyer with the Ohio Environmental Council know how we can be helpful in seeing this vital piece of legislation become law by contacting her at (614) 4875842 or .


Heather Taylor Miesle, Executive Director, Ohio Environmental Council

Molly Flanagan, Vice President, Policy, Alliance for the Great Lakes

Carol A. Stepien, Professor of Ecology, Director, Lake Erie Science Center, University of Toledo

George Meyer, Executive Director, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

Sandy Bihn, Executive Director, Lake Erie Waterkeeper, Inc

Jim Stouffer, President, Lake Erie Improvement Association

Mike Shriberg, Regional Executive Director, Great Lakes, National Wildlife Federation

Matt Misicka, President, Ohio Conservation Federation

Paul Pacholski, President, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association

Ray Stewart, President, Ohio Wetland Association

Joy Mulinex, Director of Government Relations, Western Reserve Land Conservancy

Robert Stegmier, National Director, Izaak Walton League of America

Josh Knights, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Chapter


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 .

OCF welcomes its newest member: the Ohio State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation!

June 12, 2014

The National Wild Turkey Federation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of wild turkey, conservation of habitat, and preservation of our hunting heritage.  Ohio’s 72 local chapters represent more than 8000 members.  To date, NWTF has invested $21 million dollars in Ohio restoring turkey populations and conserving habitat.

Membership in NWTF comes with lots of benefits, including education, access to quality seed products, and on-site visits to your property by expert NWTF biologists.  Be sure to check out both the national and Ohio websites at: and


OCF at the Statehouse

29 May, 2014

Last week (May 22nd), the proposed Non-resident fee increase for deer hunting was quietly removed from the Ohio Senate’s version of the mid-biennium budget review (MBR). This came as a surprise as to that point the proposal submitted by ODNR had only overwhelming support from sportsmen’s groups and an apparent lack of any opposition.  Previously, this fee increase had been approved by the Ohio House of Representatives as part of HB 483.

Now, the entire package of MBR legislation is in the hands of an appointed six-person conference committee, consisting of members of both chambers and both parties, that will attempt to negotiate a compromise on all the differences before the general assembly breaks for the summer.

The potential $3 million that could be generated by this increase will provide vital matching funds to recover as much of the record-high federal Pittman-Robertson funding as possible.  For every firearm, bow, box of ammo, or six-pack of arrows, sportsmen and women incur an excise tax (PR) that is remitted to the federal gov’t and then reapportioned to the states based upon the number of paid hunting licenses and permits sold each year.  At a ratio of 25:75, this $3 million can leverage $9 million additional dollars to be used for land acquisition from willing sellers, shooting range improvements, archery-in-the-schools programs, hunter education, and other projects beneficial to resident and non-resident sportsmen alike.

So, Steve Gray and I fashioned a concise letter, re-affirming OCF’s support for the proposed NR fee increase, and headed off to the Statehouse Thursday morning to hand deliver the message to the six conferees and both House and Senate leadership.  And, we were not alone in voicing our support.  OCF Member Buckeye Firearms Association sent a letter of support and OCF Partner U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Adam Wright and Tony Celebrezze were knocking on office doors later in the day.

Let’s hope our collective efforts make a positive impact and get this fee increase re-instated into the MBR before time runs out.


Protecting Ohio Water Quality

May 23rd, 2014

From OCF’s 2014 Initiatives: Protect Ohio Water Quality – Support intensified efforts to control harmful algal blooms and other factors that harm drinking water and negatively impact fish and wildlife in Ohio’s lakes, streams, and wetlands.

Earlier this week, OCF was asked to participate in a telephone press conference on the value of the restoring  protections afforded wetlands and tributaries under the 1972 Clean Water Act that had been muddied by Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006.  These waters, so important to wildlife, are integral to our hunting, fishing and trapping heritage. Subsequent to these Supreme Court rulings, the rate of wetlands loss across the U.S. increased by 140 percent (2004-2009).

The new rule, proposed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, with participation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, restores some, but not all protections, to many vulnerable streams and wetlands. The clarifying language in the rule preserves the existing exemptions for farming, forestry, mining and other land use activities and explicitly excludes many upland water features important to farming and forestry.

Balancing the needs of safe drinking water, wildlife habitat, and ag and industrial uses is as complex an issue as any we as sportsmen, farmers, businesses, and citizens face.

I was asked to prepare a 2-3 minute long statement, the text of which is below:

21 May 2014

Re: WOTUS Press Call

Dear Colleagues,

My name is Matt Misicka, I am the Vice President of the Ohio Conservation Federation. The Federation represents a collaboration between national, statewide, and regional organizations in Ohio. Our membership includes the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Pheasants Forever, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, the Ohio State Trappers Association, and the National Wildlife Federation. Combined, these groups count more than 70,000 Ohioans as members. At our inaugural meeting this past February, representatives of our member organizations placed Pro-Actively Supporting Legislation Beneficial to Conservation and Protecting Ohio Water Quality among our nine 2014 Initiatives.

Putting aside the obvious value of safe drinking water, of key importance to Ohio’s 1.5 million hunters, anglers and trappers is the significant protections the WOTUS rule reinstates to Ohio’s critical wetlands and seasonal, intermittent and ephemeral streams. Left vulnerable or unprotected by the 2001 and 2006 SCOTUS rulings, the proposed WOTUS ruling, supported by more than 1000 pieces of peer-reviewed scientific literature, provides needed guidance regarding protection for those bodies of water that provide fundamental habitat and food for Ohio’s fish, furbearers, and waterfowl.

Ohio’s waters fuel a sustainable hunting, fishing, and trapping economic engine worth nearly $3 billion per year and employing more than 34,000. Add to that sum recreational boating (400,000 licensed boats in Ohio) and wildlife watching and that value nearly doubles. Clean, productive waters are essential to Ohio’s sporting heritage and outdoor economy.

Water is a unique natural resource. Unlike forests and minerals, water is always on the move; whether into the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration, percolating through soil and bedrock, or carried by currents downstream. Science clearly shows strong evidence linking the protection of wetlands and tributaries to the quality of drinking water and wildlife habitat. Agricultural, industrial, municipal, and outdoor interests each have a share in the responsibility for ensuring safe drinking water, productive wildlife habitat, essential industries, and a complex economy. This ruling helps restore clarity to those responsibilities for both the regulators and the potentially regulated, without broadening the historical coverage of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in effect from 1972-2000.

Let me conclude by reminding everyone that it was the burning of Ohio’s Cuyahoga river in 1969 that is most often pointed to as the seminal event that lead to the original, bi-partisan creation of the CWA in 1972. While work remains to be done on that watershed, that same once dead crooked river, provided the protections of the CWA, now lends its name to the 33,000 acre Cuyahoga Valley N.P., visited by 2-3 million visitors a year, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons, beaver, bass, and steelhead trout. This is a shining example of what clear, thoughtful, clean water legislation can accomplish.

The WOTUS clarifications provided by this ruling ultimately help to protect Ohio’s sporting heritage and maintain its thriving outdoor economy by restoring protections to the those waters that sportsmen and women care about the most.

If I can be of any further assistance, or can answer any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Sincerely,

Matt Misicka
Vice President, Ohio Conservation Federation

Also on the call was Karen Hobbs representing the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Media on the call included: the Detroit News, Erie (PA) Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, PennLive and several others…