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 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!

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’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.

 

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 .

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: www.nwtf.org and www.ohionwtf.org.

 

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…

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