Ohio Budget a Major Win for Conservation, Hunters
Language included in Ohio’s two-year budget that would begin to fix a major shortfall in funding for conservation is one step closer to becoming law, as the Ohio Senate approved House Bill 166. Gov. Mike DeWine fulfilled his promise to Ohio sportsmen by including a major investment in hunting, fishing and trapping programs when he introduced his budget earlier this spring. The Ohio House then approved these same priorities in its version of the budget, sending the bill to the Senate.
Now that the Senate has approved the bill, a small group of legislators will hammer out differences between the House and Senate versions before sending the bill to the governor for his approval.
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 stunning and massive backlog of capital projects that were going unaddressed. This included 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 staffing, and had no plan for how to fund the retention of AEP’s ReCreation lands. Without immediate action, this financial crisis jeopardized 60,000 acres of public land available for hunting, trapping and fishing. Together the total financial shortfall of these items is $306 million over the next 10 years.
The Sportsmen’s Alliance organized a coalition of more than 40 organizations to persuade legislators to make a 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’re really happy the Senate retained this major investment in conservation for Ohio’s sportsmen and women,” said Bruce Tague vice president of Government Affairs for the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Without these funds, hunting and fishing quality will continue to decline, access will become even more limited and we will face the catastrophic loss of more public lands.”
The Sportsmen’s Alliance was join 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 have stepped up, not only with their financial support, but with their time and energy and they have been a big help to push this package through. We’re grateful for their support and efforts,” said Tague.