Tucked in among more than $70 billion in state spending priorities is a major item of importance to Ohio’s sportsmen. During negotiations between the House and Senate, Gov. Mike DeWine successfully advocated for $29 million for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Wildlife to purchase the remaining 18,000 acres of the AEP Re-Creation Lands. In 2015, the power company announced its intention to sell the 60,000 acre property, which has long been used by Ohio hunters, anglers and trappers. It was thought that the state of Ohio would be first in line to purchase the prized property. The AEP tract amounts to 10 percent of all available public land for sportsmen.
After two years, with very little progress, however, AEP began to consider private buyers, a result Ohio sportsmen were unwilling to tolerate. Led by the Sportsmen’s Alliance, a coalition of the state’s top sportsmen’s groups united in 2017 under the banner of Protect What’s Right to advocate for funding for AEP and to restore the financial security of the Division of Wildlife, which had deteriorated over the previous years. Leading organizations in the coalition include Ohio State Trappers Association, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ohio Conservation Federation, Ohio Chapter of NWTF, Greene County Fish and Game, SCI-SW Ohio and SCI Central Ohio, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Black Swamp Bucks Unlimited, Columbiana County Federation of Conservation Clubs and others.
The group successfully recruited then-gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine to support the funding priority if elected governor as part of a major funding overhaul for the Division of Wildlife. Once elected, Gov. DeWine followed through on his promises, including $40 million for AEP grounds in his first budget in 2019. The funds included in this budget will allow the purchase of the remaining acres, saving the public lands for generations to come.
“We greatly appreciate the Governor for keeping his promises and the General Assembly for supporting this major priority for Ohio sportsmen and women,” acknowledged Evan Heusinkveld, President and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “This is a great accomplishment that shows what can happen when sportsmen effectively communicate and work with elected officials. We’re very proud to lead this coalition of the most prominent conservation groups in the state, and look forward to finishing the work we began together in 2017.”
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.