U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance holds annual legislative reception

The annual U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA) legislative reception once again attracted sportsmen and women along with many elected officials to the Downtown Athletic Club in Columbus. It was attended by a "who's who" in Ohio government, as well as, major Ohio sportsmen organizations. Governor John Kasich stopped by and addressed the crowd. Senate President Keith Faber also spoke. Lt. Governor Mary Taylor and Secretary of State Jon Husted enjoyed talking with the attendees. Also Senator President Pro Tempore Chris Widener made the rounds speaking with many of the sportsmen leaders. The recently formed Ohio General Assembly Sportsmen Caucus leadership team of Senator Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township), Senator Lou Gentile (D- Steubenville), Representative Jonathan Dever (R-Cincinnati), Representative Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) were all in attendance. It was a chance to meet, discuss the past hunting or trapping seasons, and any issues.

USSA President and CEO Nick Pinizzotto welcomed the state leaders, legislators and sportsmen to the event saying, "The USSA has had a very busy but good year. Defeating the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Maine on the bear hunting issue was a critical win. Sportsmen across the country understood the importance of defeating HSUS on this issue. We have put together a new strategic plan to ensure the USSA is positioned for growth and will be here to help sportsmen fight these battles."

He next tackled the thorny issue of the Division of Wildlife budget. There have been issues with the funding of the central support that pays for the overhead of the direct and indirect charging from the ODNR to the Division of Wildlife. Pinizzotto noted, "Members of the Ohio House and Senate are currently debating the state operating budget. Many sportsmen here are concerned about the budget and the impact to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. One of the important items that needs to be fixed during the budget hearings in the legislature is the central support money. We are very committed to seeing this change made. We anticipate the support of the Governor, House and Senate to ensure that the hunting, fishing and trapping license money is protected."

Chief Scott Zody briefly addressed the crowd, "First and foremost thanks to everyone for being here tonight. You are very important to us to build relationships. Thanks to everyone who has attended one of our species specific summits. Last week I was at the North American meeting of the state fish and wildlife department managers. The Ohio Division of Wildlife was recognized by Ducks Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited Canada as one of only three states in the nation for having a continuous fifty-year partnership with DU putting sportsmen dollars on the ground for habitat. Thanks to your efforts and support of our partnerships."

Senator Rob Portman, who was unable to be at the reception, sent a video message. Kevin Hoggatt from Senator Portman's Columbus office was in attendance. Also attending was Susan Ohl, Director of Constituent Services for Congressman Jim Jordan.

Pinizzotto introduced Governor John Kasich who immediately launched into his statement, "I want to tell you all that I love you and I'm with you. We've got Keith Faber, Senate President here and Speaker Cliff Rosenberger was here. These are your friends. We have a convention coming in 2016. Here's our opportunity to showcase Ohio. This group has got to figure out how to show them what it is like to be a sportsmen in Ohio. Delegates have nothing to do all day long. Sportsmen can give them some really cool things to do. We can get them all coming back to Ohio hunting, fishing or trapping. We are all in this together. We need to tell the rest of the country what we have in Ohio. It's good to be here with you."

Senate President Keith Faber recognized the Senators present and provided a legislative summary. The Senate President noted, "Senator Randy Gardner has been working real hard to address the algae issues at Lake Erie. That was Senate Bill 1 addressing water quality. One of the priorities last year working with Senator Obhof and the NRA was to modernize our gun laws. We've corrected the definition of automatic weapons, allow the use of suppressors for hunting, and updated the concealed carry law. I'm going to leave you with this. The men and women of the legislature work very hard to hear your concerns. Let them know what is important to you. If they don't know what you think, it's really tough to represent you. The best legislation doesn't come from legislators. It comes from constituents. You have ideas. Share them with your legislators. It will make our laws better."

Pinizzotto wrapped up the formal part of the reception recognizing the USSA partners including Ohio State Trappers Association, Buckeye Firearms Association and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Also sponsoring were Browning; 21 Consulting; Safari Club International SW Ohio and Central Ohio Chapters; Ohio Conservation Federation; Elkhorn Lake Hunt Club; Associated Bird Dog Clubs of Ohio and Ducks Unlimited.

It was an important opportunity for sportsmen to speak with their legislators and state leadership about the importance of conservation, hunting, fishing and trapping in Ohio. Much of the discussions included the current status of the Ohio deer herd, proposed regulations and the budget funding for the Division of Wildlife.

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year, the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year and the 2014 Ohio NWTF Outdoor Writer of the Year.

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