Those that knew me as a wildlife officer would likely call me a company man. I believed in the mission of the Division of Wildlife, the resources I protected and, especially, in interacting with the people that enjoy them.
I never particularly liked unnecessary conflict. I did what I felt I needed to do and tried to keep my personal feelings out of it. That’s a tough road, considering how much I loved the entirety of the job. There were good days and bad, confrontations and resolutions. It was all part of the job.
Ultimately, it was who I was and still am. It’s difficult for me to find myself at odds with professionals who profess many of the same beliefs that I hold dear. Unfortunately, it seems to be happening far too frequently over the past year.
Last Sunday, outdoor writer Jeff Frischkorn wrote about information apparently leaked after a recent Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) meeting.
Frischkorn reported that he obtained a memo from multiple sources (dated Aug. 30) which indicated that the agency intends to merge the Division of Wildlife with a sibling division, likely the Ohio Division of Forestry (though the referral may be to the Division of Parks and Watercraft).
According to his report, ODNR denies that any merger of the wildlife division with any other sister division is planned, now or later. “The Division of Wildlife is not merging with any other divisions. The notes referencing that were taken out of context when referring to what other states have done. There is no merger,” said Matt Eiselstein, ODNR spokesman.
But, according to Frischkorn, the memo’s specifics do not reference any other state and are quite plain, stating: “We will be merging with wildlife (Division of Wildlife) at some point in the future.”
I will not go into the complete notations of that memorandum, though I’ve had the opportunity to view them. Most were relatively mundane references to issues facing the outfit’s officers.
ODNR leadership has repeatedly denied that such a merger is on their radar and that there is no thought of such actions. This has been met with skepticism since the sudden and surprising (and often denied) merger between the meagerly funded Division of Parks and Recreation and the flush Division of Watercraft. They are now one and appear to be in financial straits.
What do I take from this situation? Experience tells me that a merger in the near future is not likely, since it would take legislative action to complete the deal. Ohio is so close to a major gubernatorial election that such a controversial issue would not likely gain footing. That doesn’t mean that an unchecked effort would be out of the question in the future.
The alleged statements are attributed to Gary Obermiller, a person in an ODNR leadership position; comments that were likely better left to more private settings. Everyone has an opinion, but when you’re a person of influence or perceived power, your remarks will be heard and likely repeated. To think otherwise is either naivety or arrogance; I will assume the prior.
I believe that the real threat may not be the combining of the wildlife division with another, but rather the conversion of wildlife officers into the rank of natural resource officers (NROs). NROs are made up of a combination of the once-separate forestry, parks and watercraft divisions whose jobs have been pooled.
The question is: What difference would such a conversion make? With its placement of wildlife officers, the Division of Wildlife has a presence in every county. They are truly the first of the now common concept of community policing.
Wildlife officers promote conservation programs on farmland; speak to civic and school groups; enforce wildlife, litter and pollution regulations; assist in wildlife and fisheries research; are a conduit for information to the public and outdoor organizations; and are a liaison with local enforcement agencies. They’re familiar with landowners and teachers, sportsmen and students.
They become part of the community they serve.
These men and women are not only the eyes and ears of the Division of Wildlife; they are the face. A conversion would be a loss to both the resource and to the very populace that depends on them for reliable information concerning our state’s wildlife resources.
The melding of all of the divisions’ officers within ODNR and the act of combining their duties would create a hybrid natural resource policeman. The concept of community involvement would be sacrificed with services diluted.
Losing these dedicated men and women would be a loss to our outdoor heritage and to how Ohioans relate to and value our wildlife.
By the time you read this, nearly a week will have expired since Mr. Frischkorn’s report. I expect that the political flames have been suppressed and only embers remain. Don’t be complacent; many forests have burned due to campfires thought extinguished.
I’ll also wager that a pot of boiling water was prepared over that fire for the poor soul who allowed the smoke to be seen.
“Transparency is for those who carry out public duties and exercise public power. Privacy is for everyone else.” — Glenn Greenwald
Along the way:
I’ll bet you’ve noticed those annoying little beelike bugs surrounding you while you try to while away a little time on the porch. They surround your bare arms and legs with the seemingly primary goal of just bugging you.
You may have a few choice names for them as you shoo away the swarms, but you’re likely still wondering exactly what these little guys could be.
Allow me to introduce you to the hoverfly.
Hoverflies go by several other names, including syrphid flies, flower flies and drone flies. They may look like small bees or wasps and are often mistaken for a sweat bee, but the hoverfly is a true fly. Their eyes and the shape of their heads are the giveaway.
They’re known for their short bursts of flight, interrupted with moments of helicopter-like hovering as they evaluate their surroundings. They’re common throughout the country, especially around gardens and weedy areas. While the adults feed on nectar and serve as plant pollinators, their larvae have a voracious appetite for aphids.
The female hoverfly lays her eggs near aphid colonies, which then hatch in two or three days. Their larvae begin feeding on the aphids and, a few days later, they’ll attach themselves to plant stems to build cocoons.
They emerge after about 10 days, having morphed into adult hoverflies that are ready to helicopter around your arms while searching for nectar and the next targeted aphid colony. Hoverflies can control 70 to 80 percent of an area’s aphid infestation.
The threat of a sting has likely caused you to avoid slapping these airborne insects. The defenseless and stingless hoverfly’s beelike appearance helps it avoid predation by other critters for the same reason. Nothing likes even the idea of a pointy stinger.
• You can visit outdoor writer Jeff Frischkorn’s blog at outdoorswithfrischkorn.blogspot.com
• Tomorrow: Sporting clays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• Thursday, Sept. 13: Sporting clays fundraiser, Elkhorn Lake Hunt Club, 4146 Klopfenstein Road, Bucyrus. It benefits the Boy Scouts of America, Black Swamp Council, with a $250 donation for individual participants. Contact Jim Mason at email@example.com
• Sept. 15: National Hunting and Fishing Day celebration, volunteers needed, UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay. Contact 419-424-9152 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Sept. 22-23: Deer archery match, registration opens 8 a.m., Field and Stream Bowhunters, 11400 Allen Township 109, Findlay. Contact Harold Spence at 419-423-9861.
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 or via email at email@example.com