Just days after the Kasich Administration publically ruled out the need for a resident hunting and fishing license fee increase, all of Ohio’s living former top fish and wildlife executives signed a letter calling for the increase. The former heads of the Division of Wildlife, united in an unprecedented display of support for the proposed increase in resident and non-resident hunting and fishing license fees in the state, sent a letter to Governor Kasich and members of the General Assembly.
These conservation leaders, six of them in all, served five governors (Rhodes, Celeste, Voinovich, Taft and Strickland), and they led the state’s wildlife agency during 28 of the past 35 years, right up until Gov. Kasich was elected. In reading the former chiefs’ letter, it is clear that these wildlife professionals are deeply concerned about the financial crisis facing the agency they once led, and are further worried that declining services to Ohio’s sportsmen will result in steep declines in participation and funding for conservation.
The letter states: “Ohio needs better managed public land, more educational programming to help people locate places to hunt and fish and trap, more boating access, and better stocked waterways. Unfortunately, Ohio is heading the other direction. Financial austerity is causing declining quality. While fiscal efficiency is important, maintaining quality service is even more so.”
Their action follows the unanimous recommendation by the Ohio Wildlife Council that the state increase user license fees. The Ohio Wildlife Council is a bi-partisan panel appointed by the governor to advise the Chief Executive of Ohio, the Director of Natural Resources and the legislature on important matters facing Ohio’s fish and wildlife resources. The six Wildlife Council members were all appointed by Gov. Kasich.
Their efforts are also supported by 32 sportsmen and conservation organizations who have been working to convince legislators to sign on to the effort.
The input of these groups, who represent those who pay the user fees in Ohio, was especially important to the former wildlife chiefs: “While the General Assembly should always be careful not to overcharge its users, the price of a license is not the number one reason people give up hunting, fishing or trapping. To understand this issue, it is important to listen to the paying customer. In research spanning back decades, the same messages are reinforced by American sportsmen and women including those in Ohio. Lack of access remains the top reason why people give up hunting, fishing and trapping. Access to quality land to hunt. Access to quality game. Access to waterways. Access to quality shooting ranges.”
Having all six former chiefs speak out is noteworthy. Two were appointed by democratic governors and four by republicans. In addition, former Chief Scott Zody, who passed away unexpectedly in April 2016, also worked hard in recent years to convince legislators of the fiscal crisis facing Ohio’s fish and wildlife resources and the need for a fee increase.
“We are honored to have the support of these former chiefs, who have spent their entire lives dedicated to the conservation of Ohio’s fish and wildlife resources,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance, which is leading the coalition of groups supporting the fee increase. “There continues to be a growing cacophony of support for a fee increase, including the former chiefs, the Ohio Wildlife Council, and Ohio’s sportsmen and conservationists who actually pay to use the resource. This support should be a clear signal to members of the senate that the time has come to update resident and non-resident license fees.”
Take Action! The Ohio Senate is currently debating the state budget bill, and has the opportunity to address the concerns of hunters, anglers and trappers. Please let your State Senator know that sportsmen and women believe that Ohio is long overdue for a modest increase in resident hunting and fishing licenses, in addition to an increase in non-resident deer hunting permits. Let your senator know you want their support for these increase to restore the services sportsmen expect including wildlife area improvements, fish stocking and boating access. To contact your senator today, use the Sportsmen’s Alliance Legislative Action Center.
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: Online, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.