Category Archives: Water Quality

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.

 

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

 

OCF’s 2014 Initiatives to Protect Ohio Water Quality and Promote Habitat Conservation Programs are central in response to recent HAB on Lake Erie.

August 2014

In light of the recent Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Erie’s Western Basin that prompted a drinking water ban for more than 300,000 residents of the Toledo area, OCF submitted letters to our Governor, Senators, several members of Congress, and the Directors of Ohio’s departments of Natural Resources, EPA and Agriculture.

The letters urge the recipients to do all they can to fully initiate the land use changes and conservation practices, many of which are already in place, to help protect the ecosystem and drinking water from further degradation.  Specifically, the letter focuses attention on the value of collaborations between government agencies, conservation organizations, and landowners and more fully funding the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

The full text of the letter sent to Governor Kasich can be viewed by clicking here.