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Groups urge Legislature to hike fees for nonresident hunters

Ohio hunters and anglers have always proudly paid their own way. License and permit fees and money raised through Dingell-Johnson and Pittman-Robertson federal excise taxes are used to fund wildlife conservation and research throughout the Buckeye State.
Those funds pay for 96 percent of the operational costs of the Division of Wildlife, including land purchasing, law enforcement, fish stocking, education programs, non-game animal research, wildlife habitat enhancements, endangered species programs, boating access, shooting ranges and much more.
It’s been 14 years since the division had an increase in license fees, yet the cost of doing business has continued to rise while project funding has been reduced. Those who enjoy the outdoors don’t want to see this degradation of our resources.
Conservation groups are concerned about counties with no law enforcement presence (Hancock and several other counties currently have no wildlife officer), decreasing fish stocking, decreases in wildlife habitat management, and a growing list of projects being neglected or postponed.
“In 2003, Ohio sportsmen and women promised then-Gov. Bob Taft that if he raised license fees that the funds would last for at least 10 years. We’ve gone well past that mark now, and it’s time to take action,” said Luke Houghton, associate director of state services for the United States Sportsmen’s Alliance.
“Rising “¦ costs over the past 14 years have taken their toll on the services sportsmen and women, and all Ohioans, have come to rely upon. We’re asking Gov. Kasich and the Legislature to address this need by raising license fees,” Houghton said.
“Without an increase, however, customer satisfaction will continue to drop, and the hunting and fishing economies with it,” Houghton explained. “Fortunately, this is all preventable because Ohio’s outdoor community is willing to pay for the needed improvements.”
The Sportsmen’s Alliance, along with 22 other conservation organizations, is asking the Legislature to tackle the issue by taking two steps.
1. Address the cost of nonresident deer hunting in Ohio, which is the lowest of any quality whitetail deer hunting state in the country at $149 for a license and tag. The average is $393, with the lowest cost around $250.
By raising the nonresident fees to $250, Ohio will remain attractive to the current 40,000 nonresidents who hunt here while decreasing the burden faced by Ohio residents.
2. With a focus on nonresident costs, the increase on resident hunting and fishing fees could be a modest and fair $3. More importantly, they’ll provide the funds to solve the issues that concern sportsmen.
Those supporting the increases include: Ohio Conservation Federation; National Wild Turkey Federation, including the Ohio State Chapter; Ohio Ducks Unlimited; Pheasants Forever; Buckeye Big Buck Club; Ohio State Trappers Association; Lake Erie Charter Boat Association; Ohio Bowhunters Association; Ohio Bass Federation; Ohio Huskie Muskie Club; League of Ohio Sportsmen; Trout Unlimited; The Ruffed Grouse Society; Rocky Brands; National Wildlife Federation; Gallia County Conservation Club; Quail Forever; Turn in Poachers; southwestern and northern Ohio chapters of Safari Club International; and the Stark County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.
It’s important to note that the structure of the funding process guarantees that resources must be used to carry out those tasks outlined above and prevents its funneling to the state’s general fund or use for non-target or politically motivated projects.
Here lies the problem. This guarantee of targeted spending reduces or eliminates channeling money away from dedicated projects. It has permitted the Division of Wildlife to work in the best interest of conservation and not elections, a situation that some in Columbus may view as “too much power,” and money is power.
This can cause some politicians to go on a hunt themselves, attempting to trap the money and convert it into their own special projects. How much easier that would be if they could dismantle the division, create one agency, and change a few funding laws, all to aid the possibility of tossing money toward their regional electorates.
I’m sure that there would be promises to the contrary; of course, knowing a little history about how Social Security has been handled does raise my suspicions. Just follow the money or, rather, who is looking to grab it.
I recently asked some Division of Wildlife employees if an increase would indeed help to improve or increase services. I was supplied with a litany of possibilities. My next question was obvious: “Does the Division of Wildlife support an increase in license fees?”
The reply was, “No, the division does not support an increase.” That may surprise you, but my 34 years of state service easily recognized political marching orders. A thirsty dog doesn’t refuse a drink of water.
Information: www.sportsmensalliance.org.

To express your views:
Sen. Cliff Hite:
Phone: 614-466-8150
Email: www.ohiosenate.gov/hite/contact
“Yes, you are right — I am a moralist in disguise; it gets me into heaps of trouble when I go thrashing around in political questions.” “” Mark Twain
Step outside
• Today: Steel Challenge pistol shoot, noon, HCCL, 13748 Jackson Township 168, Findlay.
• Today and tomorrow: Tri-State Gun Collectors show, Allen County Fairgrounds.
• Today and tomorrow: Ohio’s free fishing days. On these two days, Ohio residents may fish in state waters without a fishing license. It’s a great weekend to try something new or revisit an old hobby.
• Tomorrow: Trap shoot, 1 p.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186.
• Tomorrow: Black Swamp Muzzle Loaders novelty shoot, patched round-ball only, 1 p.m., Portage Township 19, ¼-mile west of Hancock County 139. Contact: skinner1840@yahoo.com
• Thursday and Friday: trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• May 13 and 14: Field and Stream Bowhunters archery target shoot; moms shoot free this match and kids 12 and younger are always free. Re-entries are half-price. Registration is 8 a.m. to noon, 11400 Allen Township 109, Findlay.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413.



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