Ohio House Approves Budget with Critical Investments in Conservation
Responding to a plea by sportsmen and a campaign led by the Sportsmen’s Alliance, the Ohio House of Representatives approved the state’s two-year budget (HB 166), with a major investment in conservation included. At the urging of a coalition of more than 40 sportsmen’s organizations, Gov. Mike DeWine introduced a proposed state budget which included significant improvements to help stave-off a pending financial crisis facing the Ohio Division of Wildlife. House Bill 166, which will now be considered by the Ohio Senate, retained all of those improvements requested by the groups.
The need for investment comes on the heels of an analysis of the Division of Wildlife’s financial health, which revealed a stunning backlog of projects, a severe shortfall in funding necessary to maintain existing staffing, and a lack of funding to retain the AEP ReCreation lands – a huge swath of land publicly available for hunting, fishing and trapping. Combined, these items have the Division of Wildlife facing a funding shortfall of nearly $306 million over the next 10 years.
Projects including improvements to shooting ranges, fishing and boating access, wetland and marsh repairs, and other badly needed work, have been delayed for years due to a severe lack of funds. These delays are causing a decrease in the quality experience Ohio’s sportsmen have come to deserve. House Bill 166 takes the first step to helping the Ohio Division of Wildlife begin digging out of this financial hole.
The Sportsmen’s Alliance and its partners flooded the Statehouse with calls and letters supporting the package, called the Conservation Reinvestment Initiative, which would provide an estimated $87 million to the Ohio Division of Wildlife to address several high priority items and vital operational needs.
The Initiative includes:
- $47 million in bond authority that can be dedicated toward retaining AEP’s ReCreation land, 60,000 acres of land available to the public for hunting, fishing and trapping that’s for sale.
- Critical funding to repair Ohio’s deteriorating shooting ranges, fish hatcheries and boating/fishing access.
- A modest increase on resident fishing licenses and hunting permits, estimated to provide $40 million over the next ten years.
- The authorization for the Division of Wildlife to approve small, incremental fee increases to keep up with increasing costs to prevent large price increases in the future.
“We’re very pleased that Speaker Householder and the Ohio House of Representatives joined Governor DeWine to make sportsmen’s issues a priority in this budget,” said Bruce Tague vice president of Government Affairs for the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Our members and partners are counting on the Ohio Senate to do the same. Without this investment, hunting, fishing, trapping opportunities in Ohio will undoubtedly diminish at an alarming rate, and we face the real possibility that more than 50,000 acres of hunting land used by sportsmen will be broken up and sold to developers.”
The Sportsmen’s Alliance formed a coalition of more than forty of Ohio’s leading sportsmen and conservation organizations to support these items in the budget. The Protect What’s Right campaign has been financially supported by 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.
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.