Language included in Ohio’s two-year budget that would begin to fix a major shortfall in funding for conservation has become law. Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 166 into law on July 18. The Ohio governor fulfilled his promise to sportsmen by including a major investment in hunting, fishing and trapping when he introduced his budget earlier this spring.
After 16 years without an increase in funding, an analysis of the Division of Wildlife’s financial health performed by the Sportsmen’s Alliance revealed a shockingly large backlog of capital projects that were going unaddressed. Some of these projects include upgrades to shooting ranges, as well as boat access and fish hatcheries.
The agency also faced a severe shortfall in the funding necessary to maintain their existing staff, and had no revenue to fund the retention of AEP’s Re-Creation lands, which contain 55,000 acres available to sportsmen. The total financial shortfall of these items and others is conservatively estimated to be $306 million over the next 10 years.
The Sportsmen’s Alliance led and organized a coalition of more than 40 organizations to persuade legislators to make the necessary and critical investment. The result was a package of funding items, called the Conservation Reinvestment Initiative, which will provide an estimated $87 million to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, to begin addressing several high priority items and vital operational needs.
“We are grateful for Governor Mike DeWine’s leadership and the support we received from House and Senate leaders to begin to fix the funding shortfalls facing the Ohio Division of Wildlife,” said Bruce Tague vice president of government affairs for the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “The Ohio Conservation Reinvestment Initiative will begin to fix pressing issues such as hunting and fishing quality and take the first major steps toward maintaining access to ReCreation lands, which account for nearly 10 percent of Ohio’s publicly accessible land. This a huge down payment and we look forward to working with the Governor and the legislature moving forward to find a creative solution to the remaining financial challenges.”
The Sportsmen’s Alliance was joined in support by the leading sportsmen and conservation organizations in Ohio, including the Ohio State Trappers Association, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ohio State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ohio Conservation Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Safari Club International – Central OH Chapter, Greene County Fish and Game, Hocking County Fish and Game, and the Columbiana County Federation of Conservation Clubs.
“These groups really stepped up to the plate, setting the example for the sportsmen’s community in backing this important initiative. Not only did they provide financial support, they pounded the pavement and spoke to their legislators to help push this initiative over the finish line. We couldn’t have done it without them,” said Tague.
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.