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ODNR Caught Wrangling with Fee Increases
May 11, 2017

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Twisting and turning, clarifying and re-clarifying has been the norm lately for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources leadership. The topic that's causing all of the wrangling - whether to increase fees for hunting and fishing licenses in the state.

A prominent national conservation group, Sportsmen's Alliance, which happens to be based in Ohio, called out the state recently on the subject with the backing of nearly every major outdoor group and organization with connections to Ohio. Those groups included: the Ohio Conservation Federation; Ohio Chapter, National Wild Turkey Federation; Ducks Unlimited Ohio; Pheasants Forever; Buckeye Big Buck Club; Ohio State Trappers Association; Lake Erie Charter Boat Association; Ohio Bowhunters Association; Ohio Bass Federation; Ohio Husky Musky Club; League of Ohio Sportsmen; Trout Unlimited; Ruffed Grouse Society and many more. An article in the April 14 issue of Ohio Outdoor News, titled 'Ohio Groups Push on for License Hike', apparently also pushed state officials to react and respond. And not the way the Alliance had hoped.

Some of the responses from the state were internal at first and officials began squirming and funneling media requests for information to a central source. A double-down tactic for sure.

Then - after more media pressure - the state realized it needed to respond. So, on April 25, 2017, ODNR Director James Zehringer did respond in an eight paragraph release, that offered the state's reasoning to hold tight on resident license fees at this time. Which left an opening for the state to appease some by offering to raise non-resident hunting and fishing license fees, leaving resident fees intact.

Outdoor groups and writers then started publishing the numbers of past resident and non-resident licenses sold to show what type of income could be netted from such fee increases. Simply put, the numbers are not even close.

Part of the Sportsmen's Alliance letter to the ODNR explains their funding plan in a "two step" approach. It read: "The Sportsmen's Alliance, along with 22 other conservation organizations are asking the legislature to address the issue by taking two steps. First, by addressing the cost of non-resident deer hunting in Ohio, which is the lowest of any quality whitetail deer hunting state in the country at $149 for a license and tag. The average for other high-quality deer states is $393, with the lowest cost states around $250. By raising the cost of nonresident deer hunting to $250, Ohio will remain attractive to the current 40,000 non-residents who hunt here, while decreasing the burden faced by resident hunters and anglers.

"Second, by addressing the inequity on non-resident costs, the increase on resident hunting and fishing fees could be a modest $3. The two user fee increases are fair to non-residents, and modest on Ohioans. More importantly, they will provide the funds to solve the issues that concern Ohio's sportsmen."

The state grudgingly agreed with "step one" of the Alliance's plan, but is falling short on "step two", which would provide so much more money that could help solve the DNR's financial woes.

So we await the next twist and turn from the ODNR. Stay tuned. The wrangling may not be done.

About the Sportsmen's Alliance: 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. Stay connected to Sportsmen's Alliance: Online, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the May issue of the Ohio Valley Outdoor Times.

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