USSA: Hearing Scheduled on Bill that Would Threaten Ohio’s Deer Herd

Recently introduced bills in the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate could threaten the future of deer hunting in Ohio.

The measures, House Bill 410, sponsored by Representative Mark D. Okey (D- Carrollton), and Senate Bill 225, sponsored by Senator Mark Wagoner (R- Toledo), move oversight and regulation of captive deer breeders and deer hunting facilities from the Ohio Division of Wildlife and place them under the control of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. A move that is not only unnecessary but could prove to be devastating to Ohio's deer herd.

As sportsmen across the country know, Ohio is home to some of the nation's finest deer hunting, thanks in large part to the management of the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW). Through their leadership, all deer and other cervids in Ohio have remained healthy and basically disease free. For example, many states are struggling with outbreaks of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is an easily transmittable and fatal disease that wreaks havoc on deer and elk populations. The DOW has successfully regulated all Ohio deer including captive deer breeding and hunting facilities for over 50 years without any CWD outbreak.

Conversely, the Department of Agriculture does not have the funds or the law enforcement resources to assume the responsibility of managing a portion of the Ohio's deer population. Currently, the DOW works closely with experts from the Department of Agriculture to prevent the outbreak of any diseases. This relationship is working well now and should not change.

"All deer are, and will always need to be treated as wildlife, regardless of whether they are born in captivity or in the wild," said Evan Heusinkveld, USSA's director of state services. "The DOW is the only agency in Ohio with the tools, expertise and resources available to ensure we protect this great natural resource. Regulation, inspection and enforcement over captive deer facilities should remain with the DOW."

Disease outbreaks in states such as Wisconsin have cost their wildlife agencies millions of dollars to fight as well as many millions in lost revenue from reduced hunting license sales. In Ohio, deer hunting is a $1.2 billion industry with deer hunters alone contributing more than $150 million in federal, state and local taxes. Sportsmen also pay the tab to protect all wildlife in Ohio, not just game species, through their hunting license fees and excise taxes.

Senate Bill 225 was referred the Senate Agriculture committee and will have its first hearing on Wednesday, January 27th at 9:00 a.m. in the North Hearing Room.

House Bill 410 was referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

"Deer hunting in Ohio is an institution," added Heusinkveld. "Sportsmen will not sit idly and watch the future of deer hunting threatened."

Take Action! Ohio sportsmen need to contact their legislators and educate them on the true danger this bill poses to Ohio's deer herd, our rich hunting heritage, and our economy. Remind them that deer in Ohio have been managed successfully and safely by the Division of Wildlife for decades and that should not change. Those unable to attend the hearing should call their state representative and state senator in opposition to these bills.

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