Wildlife council rejects new deer amendments
So much for any theory the Ohio Wildlife Council is a "rubber stamp" group.
Refusing to bend from pressure by a group of state legislators, the eight-member council is standing by its approval of proposed 2013-14 deer hunting regulations.
In a 3-4 vote on Wednesday, council members turned down amendments to hunting rules they approved on April 17.
Those amendments, formulated by the Ohio DNR, aimed to appease a bi-partisan group led by Sen. Chris Widener of Springfield who opposed more stringent deer hunting regulations proposed by the agency for next year.
ODNR suggested the amendments in order to head off a confrontation before the Ohio General Assembly’s Joint Committee On Agency Rule Review (JCARR). The committee is slated to meet May 20 to stamp final approval on the state’s 2013-14 hunting regulations.
Widener previously indicated he will continue his fight to JCARR and has sufficient committee support to block the proposed rules. Wednesday’s vote set the stage for an unprecedented stand-off between sportsmen and state lawmakers.
While some council members and hunting groups were opposed to portions of the proposed regulations, they were clearly more opposed to interference by legislators.
“Legislators will be writing our hunting rules,” said Larry Mitchell of the League of Ohio Sportsmen.
Mitchell said his organization represents 240,000 outdoor enthusiasts and sportsmen.
John Hobbs of the Ohio Bowhunters Association – a group generally opposed to the new deer regulations – appeared to agree.
“Our legislators should have more important work to do,” Hobbs said.
Council member Karen Linkhart favored amending the proposed rules in order to avoid a JCARR battle.
“The (deer) season will be hijacked if it goes to JCARR,” Linkhart argued. “I don’t like the situation. But the amendments keep the integrity of our mission.”
Council member Paul Mechling, II, a veterinarian from Ashtabula, disagreed. He said amendment approval would give legislators power over state biologists in managing Ohio’s deer herd and other wildlife.
“We’re setting a precedent that’s dangerous,” Mechling said. “We had good science before. We still have good science.”
Rejection by JCARR would send the proposed regulations to the full general assembly for deliberation, said Scott Zody, chief of the ODNR Division of Wildlife.
Any steps beyond that will require more legal research by the agency, Zody added.
Council members who supported the amendments: Karen Linkhart, Larry Mixon, Sr. and George Klein. Those who opposed: Charlie Franks, Horace Karr, Paul Mechling, II and Tim Ratliff. Council member Stephen Seliskar was absent from Wednesday's meeting.