Hunting, fishing license buyers fund the outdoor cause in Ohio
Earlier this month at the annual Ohio Wildlife Diversity Conference in Columbus, Kendra Wecker, state wildlife chief, asked for a show of hands among the 1,000-plus attendees over who possessed a hunting or fishing license.
A fair showing of hands went up, but by no means a majority, a point which Wecker went on to discuss. Whether you actually hunt or fish, or trap, she said, buying a license is the best wildlife investment an individual can make.
The chief noted how license and attendant permit and stamp fees constitute the backbone of the annual budget of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and that they directly support personnel and programs in “conservation and habitat” in general for the benefit of all the public, not just hunters and anglers. You cannot tell songbirds that they cannot use a woodland, field, or marsh that was bought and tended for gamebirds.
Granted, latter-day add-ons, such as the income-tax refund checkoff, specialty motor-vehicle plates, and the Wildlife Legacy Stamp all are nice voluntary supplements. But the money those add-ons raise collectively are a mere drop in the bucket in a division that needs at least $65 million to $70 million a year to properly attend to its mission.
The chief also noted that the number of licenses sold, along with land area, are key factors in annual federal funding reimbursement programs known as Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson. The federal Pittman-Robertson Act (1937) and Dingell-Johnson Act (1950) levy 11 and 10 percent excise taxes, respectively, on hunting and fishing equipment.
P-R and D-J have contributed more than $20 billion to wildlife and fish projects nationwide since their inceptions; they have been a ringing success. Last year Ohio’s share of the funds was more than $23 million, and they provide 75 percent of money for a given project. But unless the Wildlife Division has enough matching money, any unused P-R and D-J funds must be returned to Washington to be divvied up among states that do have more than enough matching funds.
Attempts to expand the excise tax programs in include other outdoors equipment, optics, camping gear, and more so far have fallen flat on their faces. So we are left with hunting and fishing licenses, Wecker said.
A proposed Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would derive an estimated $1.3 billion in revenues from energy and mineral development on federal lands and waters, to be used for wide-ranging conservation of habitat and all wildlife species, from mammals and fish and frogs to birds, bats, butterflies, bees, and more. But it, too, continues to languish, buried in committees from one Congress to the next. Don’t expect any action on it this year, either, what with rampant and distracting election politics seizing center-stage.
Taking Chief Wecker’s stance a step further, I suggest that nonhunters and anglers go a step even further and buy fishing rods and reels, or a .22 targets rifle or similar gear, and donate them to clubs and organizations with youth programs, or to relatives who do hunt and fish. That would further the cause of state fish and wildlife agencies that do the heavy lifting for them for free.
After all, the ODNR Mission Statement, “To ensure a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all,” clearly includes everyone. The Wildlife Division is inclusive as well in its mission, “To conserve and improve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainable use and appreciation by all.”