A sportsmen license package bill, SB 257, was introduced by Senator Joe Uecker (R-Clermont County) and Senator Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta ) along with co-sponsors. Senator Uecker, who is also the co-chair of the Ohio Legislative Sportsmen Caucus, and Rep. Devers, along with ODNR Assistant Director Gary Obermiller held a press conference to announce the bill., which is assigned to the Environment and Natural Resources committee.
Senator Uecker, who lead the press conference, noted the purpose of the bill is to improve customer service within the ODNR Division of Wildlife. Senator Uecker introduced Jonathan Devers (R- Madeira) as an avid outdoorsman to speak on the bill.
Rep. Devers said, “I’ve always found it strange and interesting that the licenses don’t work annually and I like the lifetime option. I think I will purchase one of those quickly. Having these options as sportsmen give a lot of flexibility to people in Ohio who are avid hunters, fishermen and trappers.”
Senator Uecker introduced Obermiller saying he also put a lot of work into this legislation. Obermiller said, “Director Zehringer made some bold moves in the Division of Wildlife about six months ago. We really took a look at how we were operating and serving our customers. We know nationwide we are seeing a decline in the number of sportsmen participating in hunting, fishing and trapping. . . Access and opportunity are extremely important. Director Zehringer is committed to a license system that serves our customers better.”
Questions followed regarding the Lake Erie Sport District and the non-resident fishing stamp. Obermiller replied, “The fishing, or walleye, stamp will be required for nonresidents who come to Ohio specifically to fish for walleye in Lake Erie and its tributaries. We all know that if you have an ice fishing season up to the spring run, walleye are spawning. Most states close the walleye season during the spring run. The Lake Erie Stamp will be required Jan. 1 through the end of April and the dollars will go to projects that benefit Lake Erie “
The bill includes language to:
– Eliminate the requirement for handicapped hunters to use an electric powered vehicle and permit handicapped hunters to hunt from an ATV.
– Removes the requirement that an apprentice hunting license may be purchased for only three years. There will be no limit.
– Establishes 3, 5 and 10-year license sales and a lifetime license for hunting and fishing for adults, youth and seniors. The fee structure is discounted. A 3-year regular adult license will be $48.60 whereas the current yearly license costs $57 over 3-years.
-Designates that all funds from multi-year license sales are deposited into the state treasury and that all fees and interest be returned to the Division on a pro-rated yearly basis. The funds are distributed on the fiscal year.
-Fishing licenses will be valid for one-year from date of purchase.
-The license writing fee will be $1 or 4 percent of the license, stamp or permit costs whichever is greater.
– Gives the Chief the authority to create combination licenses at discounted rates not to exceed 10 percent.
– Establishes a Lake Erie “Sport Fishing District” which includes all the lake waters and bays. It appears that the purpose is to create a nonresident Lake Erie sport fishing permit of $10. I did not see any reference to a resident permit. The bill lists specific uses of this money and it goes to the Wildlife Fund.
– Gives the chief authority to exempt license requirements.
The Sportsmen Alliance, on behalf of its Protect What’s Right partners, none of which had not seen the legislation prior to its introduction, sent a letter to the legislation sponsors stating, in part, “We appreciate your work on behalf of Ohio sportsmen and women with the introduction of the ODNR-Division of Wildlife multi-year license bill. We appreciate your interest in addressing concerns about hunting, fishing and trapping recruitment and retention. Like you, we all want to see Ohio’s heritage of hunting and wildlife conservation efforts continue on for the next generation to enjoy. While we understand the intent of this bill, and appreciate your willingness to examine these issues, we do have a number of questions, concerns and suggestions about the specific provisions of the legislation.”
The Sportsmen’s Alliance Protect What’s Right campaign includes Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, League of Ohio Sportsmen, Ohio Conservation Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Safari Club International – Central Ohio Chapter, Greene County Fish and Game Association, and Columbiana County Federation of Conservation Clubs.
The next step is the committee hearing process in the legislature. That will provide opportunity for sportsmen and all the organizations representing the sportsmen and women of Ohio to go on record supporting or opposing the bill and all its provisions. It is vital that sportsmen let their voice be heard.
A video of the press conference can be found at: http://ohiochannel.org/video/press-conference-improving-access-to-ohios-fishing-and-hunting-licenses.
Larry Moore is a long-time outdoor writer for Greene County News.