Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Osborne Farm's eagle nest will be protected in any Equestrian Dream plans

If horses ever will have the run of a new high-end planned community in Lake County’s Kirtland Hills Village, then American bald eagles will continue to soar above the proposed equine-related project.

In fact, the eagles are all ready homesteaders on a large piece of private property located within the village, edged on the north by Interstate 90, Ohio Route 615 on the west, and Chillicothe Road to the south and east as the pie-slice-shaped parcel curves back up toward the interstate.

The property is generally and locally known as the Jerome T. Osborne Sr. horse farm; a holding right out of a Kentucky thoroughbred estate. Nestled in about the center of the property is a copse of tall trees including one on the grove’s western fringe that contains a several-year-old American bald eagle nest.

Some concerns had been expressed to state and federal wildlife officials regarding the future of the nest and its support tree, given the scope of an ambitious proposal called the “Equestrian Dream.” This planned community – which still must jump through its own set of bureaucratic hoops before becoming a reality – could feature 12 five-acre home sites (the minimum required by the upscale Kirtland Hills Village code), built along Chillicothe Road.

Along with the lots and any homes the development would feature a 30-acre “common area” where property owners could ride their horses.

Equestrian Dream is the brain child of Richard Osborne Sr., a well-known Northeast Ohio developer and the son of the late Jerome T. Osborne Sr.

Just where the American bald eagle nest and its support tree fits in any future development plans will require meeting strict federal guidelines. After all, the current eagle residents have legal squatters’ rights to the tree and its nest.
Consequently, the laws are very specific as to what can and cannot be done to a nest and any supporting structure as well as any disturbances within specified federal standards, says Deanne Endrizzi, avian biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Region.

Endrizzi said that the Service requires an extensive permitting vetting process to help ensure that eagle nests and whatever structure that supports them are protected – a condition that also requires monitoring and cooperation on the part of state fish and game agencies. In this case that would be the Ohio Division of Wildlife, which is aware of the Osborne Farm eagle nest but much less so regarding the Equestrian Dream proposal.

“It is important to remember that eagle nest are protected year-round whether they are occupied or not,” Endrizzi said.

“One of the good things for the nest,” Endrizzi said also, is the proposal’s plans call for five-acre lots so that aspect should help in not crowding too close to the eagle nest.

“But permits are still needed and we wouldn’t do that until any actual building begins,” Endrizzi said.

Not surprisingly how both federal and state officials remain firmly committed to eagle protection is borne out by the fact that even though the species is no longer listed as endangered it remains the nation’s symbol. The species thus is protected under the federal government’s Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act’s umbrella.

And Ohio stands firmly committed to the care and future of the eagle in the state. For this year the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s eagle nest survey estimated that Ohio had 221 American bald eagle nests statewide and which were believed to have produced a minimum of 312 eaglets.

At least seven of those nests were/are located in Lake County, too.

“And there could be more,” said Wildlife Division communications manager John Windau.

More or less still demands that people cannot simply skip the law and do as they wish when it comes to building near an eagle’s nest. Rules and rules and they are intended to help keep the American bald eagle from returning to the Endangered Species list.

Even so, Endrizzi says that in rare circumstances the Service will issue a permit that would allow a person to cut down a tree or remove a nest. However, such allowances are typically awarded only if the structure or nest is threatening to harm something like an existing home or people, Endrizzi said.

“We try and work closely with any property owner,” Endrizzi said.

And Kirtland Hills officials not only are going to take a close look at the Equestrian Dream proposal they also want to keep an eye out for the eagle nest. After all, the birds that occupy it are village residents as well, says the community's village council president Glenn Schwaller.

“Certainly this is something that we should take note of, and it’s really nice to see how the eagle has made a comeback,” Schwaller said.

As for the Osborne clan, the developer’s son – Richard Osborne Jr. - said he has brought the matter of the eagle nest to the attention of his father and likewise believes that the eagle nest will get attention should the proposal move forward.

“I have brought your concerns to my father whom is working on this project,” Richard Osborne Jr. said in an email exchange on the subject.

“I am concerned as well and will make sure any appropriate provision will take place related to the nest's protection. It is truly amazing to have American bald eagles soaring above our area and I will make sure your concerns are addressed.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Lake Metroparks' new Lake Erie fishing pier hooking lots of interest

Painesville Township’s Tim Hickey managed to both catch a very nice Lake Erie steelhead from a new Lake Metroparks project he also did nicely in avoiding being in hot water with his wife.

By catching a chunky five-pound or so steelhead trout from the parks system’s newly constructed (mostly) fishing pier, Hickey took home a prize that kept him in his wife’s good graces.

“My wife said I wasn’t allowed to come home unless I caught a trout,” said a beaming and half-joking Hickey. “Now I don’t have to sleep in my car.”

Hickey was casting a rig consisting of a small jig tipped with several maggots and suspended beneath a foam plastic float. The affair had been launched from Lake Metroparks’ pier, a massive metal “crib” loaded with a quarry of heavy rocks and superimposed with a concrete deck. The pier also features a couple of picnic tables, sheltering awning, and a system of heavy-gauge tubing that serves as guardrails along with some signage.

The pier juts 200 feet into Lake Erie and is located at the end of Hardy Road and terminating at Painesville Township Park. The 37-acre park is owned by the township but the whole kit-and-caboodle is managed by Lake Metroparks under a 25-year lease agreement.

Lake Metroparks has completed the three-year pier project; an object of studies, wading through the required governmental red tape and squirreling away about $2.5 million in funding. It was paid for by Lake County property taxpayers, of whom Hickey happily says he is one.

“The pier has turned out really, really nice,” Hickey said. “It’s so cool to see our tax dollars being spent so well. Lake Metroparks always gets our family’s ‘yes’ vote at levy time.”

The pier is actually just one component of the parks system’s efforts to shore up the 100-year-old park. A complex component, to be sure, as a lot of forethought went into designing and building its superstructure and associated land-based erosion control edifice, says Lake Metroparks’ executive director Paul Palagyi.

Basically, said Palagyi, the pier consists of a steel basket into which contains huge rocks. As Lake Erie tries to punish the pier’s superstructure the water runs through the crib and the waves’ energy is defused. It’s a much better design concept than using steel bulkheads which are not always successful in standing up to the pounding of Lake Erie’s oft-times powerful waves, Palagyi says.

“This design is intended to extend the life of the pier and I doubt that any of us will ever live long enough to see the day come when it is destroyed,” Palagyi said.

Left in place just to east of the new pier – and now largely ignored – is a several generations-old concrete model that had always attracted steelhead, bass and walleye anglers but was never easily accessible.

“We left it there because, quite frankly, it would have been too costly to remove,” Palagyi said.

Palagyi said as for the new pier project, it was broken down into two phases with the first one costing $619,000 and included the 800 feet of reinforced shoreline protection. The second phase cost $1.9 million and featured the specially designed and built pier and its appointments as well as landscaping the park’s slope, adding steps and a switchback paved path for handicap accessible vehicles.

While the bulk of the bill was footed by Lake County property owners, Painesville Township’s park board does kick in several hundred thousand dollars annually to help offset maintenance costs, Palagyi says as well.

“There are not too many locations anywhere along Lake Erie where persons with mobility issues can access as good a fishing hole as this pier provides,” Palagyi said.

For anglers, the new pier represents perhaps one of the finest public fishing platforms between Cleveland and Conneaut. Make that “free” public fishing platform as the parks system will allow no-charge angling access 24/7 to anyone and everyone and not just for Lake County residents.

“Really, you cannot find a better strategically placed shore access site for walleye and steelhead fishing,” Palagyi said. “The fish like to cruise the shoreline and will swim right alongside the pier’s two faces. The pier is right in the middle of it all.”

Indeed, while fishing any pier is often times best right at its nose, the pier extends into water deep enough that trout, smallmouth bass and walleye can be caught – and are being caught – throughout its entire 200 foot length.

At the pier’s end anglers may be fishing water that’s 10 or 12 feet deep but even where the structure edges the shoreline the water’s depth is still several feet deep: and is situated in such a way that various sport fish species that love rocks will be available to anglers, Palagyi says.

Also, some 15 lights run the pier’s length, offering plenty of illumination to tie on lures or rig baits. And if that’s too much artificial daylight all an angler has to do is cover a light with a sweatshirt, Palagyi says.

And because the rather longish Grand River west breakwater at the mouth of the stream is about two miles to the west, sand migration is essentially halted. That means the lake’s ground floor extending out from the park and its pier are an amalgam of stone, rock and boulders with little in the way or either sand or mud.

“Perfect fish habitat,” Palagyi said.

Of important note is that the pier’s deck does ride about 10 feet above the lake’s surface. Add another three feet for the wrap-around steel tube railing and it’s a bit of a drop to retrieve a caught fish.

No problem as anglers found solutions even before the park’s official dedication October 17th.

Some anglers have discovered the so-called “pier nets” popularized by fishers working the Atlantic Ocean’s string of fishing piers. Without going into too much detail, such a device consists of large-diameter landing net material stretched over a metal hoop and suspended by three chains that are attached to a small ring and from which is tied a lengthy piece of rope.

Drop the affair over the pier’s side and let it sink a ways, slide a caught fish over the enveloping net and raise the whole shebang.

The alternative is that some anglers are using home-brewed handle extensions of either PVC piping or aluminum and figuring how best to incorporate a way to take down the unit into a truck-manageable length.

While the pier will be shut down during dangerous late fall through early spring weather, should a temporary reprieve appear the parks system will simply open the gates until the nasty stuff returns, Palagyi says.

Palagyi says also that though the pier was designed in large measure with anglers in mind they are not by any means the only ones welcome. The pier will offer outstanding evening sunset viewing and will prove to be an exceptional birding location as waterfowl in huge flights often pass close to shore at lake surface heights.

“We have more than a few eagles in the neighborhood, too,” Palagyi said.

But don’t think that these pursuit seekers are going to be squeezed out by people wanting to turn the pier into a reserved private party venue. That’s not going to happen on his watch, says Palagyi.

“We’ve all ready turned down requests to reserve the pier,” he said. “Hey, if a party wants to host a wedding on the pier that’s fine. The bride is just going to have understand that she may be standing next to a fishing rig with a night crawler on it.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Wolrdwide fish virus now killing thousands of Pymatuning Reservoir carp

Well-known and respected Pennsylvania outdoors writer Darl Black said that a recent crappie fishing outing on Pymatuning Reservoir with his wife Marilyn stunk, but it wasn’t for the lack of catching any of the tasty panfish.

Instead, a nose-curling stench came from the rotting carcasses of untold thousands of carp, the fish dying as the result of the swift-moving and equally fast-acting koi herpes-virus. This virus was identified only in 2000 but has been encountered nearly worldwide – particularly in countries with extensive aquaculture industries such as India, China, and Israel where carp are raised for food.

Also heavily impacted are places with considerable ornamental fish businesses that raise the carps’ close cousin, the koi, the species after which the viral disease is named.

To date only carp and koi have been identified as susceptible to koi herpes-virus and no other member of the minnow family – to which these two species belong – has shown evidence of the disease.

As for visible symptoms, infected fish typically exhibit signs of infection that include severe gill lesions seen as gill mottling with red and white patches, bleeding gills, sunken eyes, and pale patches on the skin.

An infected fish may succumb to the disease in an eye-blink of a rush: within only one or two days. And some research says that an ornamental koi pond could be totally wiped out in a matter of just a few weeks.

However, both the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have been quick to quiet any fears that koi herpes-virus poses a risk to human health.

Matt Wolfe, fisheries biologist with the Wildlife Division’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) Office in Akron, said that diseased-dead carp were first noted around the Labor Day weekend at the 16,349-acre flood-control reservoir, built in the mid-1930s. The lake rests in both Ohio and Pennsylvania and which share joint fisheries management of the popular Northeast Ohio-northwest Pennsylvania angling destination.

We began receiving a few reports here and there but over the past few weeks the numbers have pretty steadily ramped up,” Wolfe said.

No sick or dead carp were observed by Fish Commission staff in the eastern portion of the reservoir commonly referred to as the Pymatuning Sanctuary. The sanctuary is separated from the main lake by a narrow dam and small spillway. This is the fabled and popular tourism location where “the ducks walk on the fishes’ backs.”

Live carp were collected by Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission staff on September 12 who then shipped the fish to the University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center for testing. The Center confirmed on September 21 that the fish had tested positive for the koi herpes-virus, said Commission spokesman Eric Levis.

Both Ohio and Pennsylvania fisheries experts say there is no way of knowing where the disease originated, though Pymatuning’s exceptionally large carp population made it an ideal candidate for koi herpes-virus to gain a foothold, Wolfe said.

If you had to pick a lake where there’d be a high likelihood for the disease, Pymatuning would be it,” Wolfe said.

The Fish Commission’s addendum on the subject notes that the disease could have been found in some infected fish, been present in the bilge water of an angler’s boat, or perhaps it originated from a backyard pond or maybe the disease came with an aquarium fish that someone may have released into the lake.

But Wolfe did note that with the arrival of cooler weather the lake’s water temperature will decline as well, throttling back the incidence of the disease.

As for whether the koi herpes-virus will rear its ugly head, that is “hard to say”, though perhaps the disease’s impact template may match that of another fish virus, said Wolfe.

Look at VHS (viral hemorrhagic septicemia) that hit Lake Erie; it ran rampant and eventually fish began developing an immunity to it,” Wolfe said.

However, the Fish Commission says it is entirely possible that Pymatuning may experience periodic outbreaks of koi herpes-virus. That situation has some history at Pymatuning which is still seeing residual outbreaks of “red spot disease,” a viral infection that has periodically plagued the lake’s renowned muskie population.

Even so, one concern remains that the some carp may not necessarily becomes victims of koi herpes-virus but possibly may become transmitters of the disease; a sort of Typhoid Mary for carp.

Added to that worry, Wolfe says, is that the disease “could jump ship and be bounced from one lake to another” via hitching a ride in the watery live well of an anglers’ boat or attached to the strands of hydruala - which has likewise infected Pymatuning - and then dropped in the waters of some other reservoir, lake or stream.

Here at the Division when we retrieve one of our boats we thoroughly treat the hull and the trailer with disinfectant to kill any organism,” Wolfe said. “It’s a good and highly recommended practice for anyone to do.”

The Fish and Boat Commission says also that its web site for more information on how to “Clean Your Gear” and stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. That site is at www.fishandboat.com/Resource/AquaticInvasiveSpecies/Pages/CleanYourGear.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Portman's bipartisan senatorial efforts pay off with algal bloom control legislation

Ohio’s junior senator and Republican Rob Portman has managed to cross the fractious political divide and engage several of his Democratic colleagues to come aboard in an effort to deal with massive algal blooms.

Portman joined with Florida’s U.S. Senator and Democrats senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Gary Peters of Michigan to see to it that the full Senate successfully passed the “Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act.”

This act reauthorizes the 1998 act that bears the same name, with Portman and Nelson also working together in 2014 for a reauthorization of the act. In that reauthorization Portman managed to secure a Great Lakes’ associated segment that helped to prioritize efforts directed at such freshwater bodies as Lake Erie.

Portman says the program – which is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - was birthed by the original act which fueled the federal government’s research and subsequent response toward dealing with harmful algal blooms.

Such blooms have plagued Lake Erie for several years. The record-breaking heat in September along with a general lack of both wind and rain exasperated the algal bloom situation on Lake Erie and the Maumee River in September, scientists say.

Nelson has a proprietary interest in the subject as well. That is because algal “dead zones” have cropped up in the salty Gulf of Mexico just as they have in Lake Erie’s freshwater and the Chesapeake Bay’s brackish water.

In the case of the Gulf of Mexico, an algal-created oxygen-deprived dead zone the size of New Jersey occurred in 2014 while one measuring more than 8,481 square miles developed in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2002.

Importantly, said Portman, recent program efforts include NOAA’s seasonal forecasts on the expected severity of algal bloom events in Lake Erie along with a biweekly Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom bulletin issued by NOAA. This bulletin provides forecasts of the movement and toxicity of bloom events in Lake Erie as well as such inland water bodies as Buckeye Lake or Grand Lake St. Marys, Portman said, noting the size and scope of the problem.

"This legislation takes critical steps toward protecting Lake Erie and other freshwater bodies throughout Ohio and the nation from toxic algae,” Portman said, noting that it’s “important that these water bodies are protected, as they supply drinking water to millions of Ohioans and are critical for Ohio’s tourism and fishing industries.”

Portman said also that for the first the renewed legislation will allow for possible funding to be made available to communities with significant algal bloom outbreaks to “help protect against environmental, economic, and public health risks.”

I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important legislation to the president for his signature," said Portman. 

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, September 25, 2017

Ohio's Natural Resources Department continues to defend the indefensible

Even after nearly seven years of holding down the fort the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ leadership still finds itself trying to both win over pro-sportsmens organizations and justify its full-nelson hold on the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

No where does this mangled mindset appear more in evidence than via a video shot September 8th during a portion of the Ohio State Trappers Association’s annual convention, held at the Holmes County Fairgrounds in Millersburg.

This hour-plus-long video contains a testy (at times) exchange between members of the Trappers Association and the Natural Resources Department’s assistant director Gary Obermiller. It is posted on the Association’s Facebook page.

Subsequent comments made by Association attendees that are linked with the video also suggest that Obermiller’s efforts have achieved little in the way of bolstering confidence in the agency.

Which is in keeping with the Natural Resources Department on-going inability to acknowledge that it has an appearance problem trending toward arrogance. This pomposity has defined the agency’s leadership from the beginning and which still lurches itself onward with faux swagger.

Indeed, the Natural Resources Department continues to misread the breadth and depth of distrust that many Ohio sportsmen/sportswomen hold for the agency.

In a statement worthy of former Trump Administration press secretary Sean Spicer, Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Matt Eislestein added to the administration’s string of back-handed insults of anyone who dares to disagree with the agency.

When asked if Obermiller wanted to amend, change, expand or comment on his statements and performance at the Trappers’ meet, Eiselstein simply stated “I don’t think anything needs added to Assistant Director Obermiller’s appearance at the Ohio State Trappers Association event. He was polite and respectful when answering questions even when interrupted and badgered during his responses.”

Similar vainglorious statements were belched a few months back when roughly 40 state and national conservation groups backed increases to Ohio resident hunting and fishing license fees. Then the Natural Resources Department’s leadership smugly snorted – in effect – as how the non-profit groups should have undertaken a poll of their respective memberships on whether the organizations should say yea or nay to any increase in resident hunting and fishing license fees.

Even forgetting for a moment the logistical improbability of mounting such a step, the very reason people belong to these organizations is because of their conservation activism. All of that is still being lost on the Natural Resources Department’s directorship which seems to believe that anything other than its opinion is fake news.

Clearly this self-promoting strategy spilled over unto the state trapper’s annual pow-wow stage; a group the Natural Resources Department now seems bent on disenfranchising by saying its people badgered Obermiller.

Obviously, too, Natural Resources Department officials both misinterpreted the response to Obermiller’s defense of the indefensible but have also failed – and miserably so – to acknowledge any of the sod-busting efforts on the part of previous administrations which broke ground on various sportsmen initiatives.

In one instance Obermiller attempted to singularly sing the praises regarding his administration’s efforts at opening state parks, natural areas and nature preserves to hunting. And while any and all such effort must be applauded, neither Obermiller, nor Natural Resources Department director James Zehringer - or even Wildlife Division chief Mike Miller - can possibly file an original patent on the idea. Their claim that the Wildlife Division has not taken advantage of this access opportunity is simply bogus.

Then too Obermiller’s statement that state parks have more public water for anglers was a bit surprising and something that stretched reality to the breaking point. After all, Ohio anglers have the Ohio River to the south and something called Lake Erie to the north. Take away those two minor fishing holes and it doesn’t take much of an imagination to determine how low fishing license sales would dip.

As the video shows, now-retired Wildlife Division District Three (Northeast Ohio) supervisor Jeff Herrick pointedly and correctly provided a short history regarding his former employer’s decades-long work in achieving the opening of dozens of state parks as well as natural areas to hunting and the agency’s dogged efforts to share this effort with Ohio’s sportsmen.

And while Herrick’s response was maybe an octave louder than a normal tone of voice, to say that his reaction to Obermiller’s politically talented interpretation of events was somehow “badgering” easily achieves audacity.

Herrick’s responses – and there were multiples of them – also demonstrated the on-going frustration felt by many sportsmen towards current Natural Resources Department’s policies and perceived threats against the Wildlife Division. These perceptions simply have not gone away because more than a few sportsmen/sportswomen still do not trust the Natural Resources Department’s leadership. Again, seven years into the department’s leadership tenure.

They remain outraged as the Natural Resources Department has utilized the Wildlife Division the way a baseball franchise mines its farm club system; robbing the latter of dedicated and experienced employees. A move that included removing the Wildlife Division’s head of law enforcement for the do-it-or-be-dismissed job of babysitting the Natural Resources Department’s communications room.

And when Obermiller tried to say that under the Natural Resources bold leadership the state parks system has achieved fiscal solvency it was candidly pointed out to him that the pilfering of the former Ohio Division of Watercraft with its fiscally solid Waterways Safety Fund, and then shuffling them into the Parks Division, certainly didn’t hurt Parks’ bottom line.

Obermiller wasn’t all wrong nor all bad, however. He was spot on in saying that the multitude of so-called wildlife production areas owned by the Wildlife Division deserve better play. Indeed, these highly obscure parcels of often superb wildlife habitat are decades old but are minimally known by Ohio’s hunters. In this regard the Natural Resources Department earns top marks for wanting to see the Wildlife Division do much more in promoting them.

And credit Obermiller for noting that the Wildlife Division has for too long been viewed as the pretty one of the Natural Resources Department’s family at the expense of its lesser siblings. Sure, some of that feeling is nothing more than jealousy but there is more than an element of truth to the long-held belief.

Problem was, Obermiller had few of these positives; his presentation often citing items of dubious accuracy. His statements on Zehringer’s Natural Resources ad hoc citizens committee make it seems like it is comprised of average joes plucked from the street. The members are anything but, and a going over the list shows more friends of the agency’s leadership than foes; a tell-tale sign that Zehringer wants to hear happy news first, foremost and last.

Even more startling, near the conclusion of the video Obermiller commented on a question addressing these two ad hoc committees. Regarding the new Wildlife Ad Hoc Committee, Obermiller said that he believes there are 12 members but “I can’t tell you all (their) names.” That is a stunning admission given that one of the committee members said he was recruited to join the group by none other than Obermiller himself.

Obmiller said as well that one year from now when he returns to the Trappers’ annual convention, if the group’s membership tells him that the Natural Resources Department has “mucked things up” he’ll take his “medicine.”

Alas, the Kasich-Zehringer-Obermiller political machine has pretty much squandered seven of its eight allotted years. And sadly this means that Administration officials still have an entire year and change to keep mucking things up, to recycle Obermiller’s own words.

To view the video, go to the Ohio State trappers Association’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/456132764517105/. Note that at times the visual portion of the program is heavily pixelated while the audio portion includes segments that will need rewinding and subsequent rehearing.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ohio's Wildlife Division still lead agency in stream pollution investigations

Quashing talk that the Ohio Division of Wildlife is no longer actively engaged in stream pollution cases, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources defended both agency’s performance in protecting the environment.

The subject recently bubbled to the surface internally that the Wildlife Division has been ordered to stay away from investigating and enforcing reported stream pollution incidents. This alleged hands-off order was particularly addressed regarding alleged violations involving agricultural practices, hinting that the Natural Resources Department did not want to rile the state’s powerful farming interests.

Fuel to the fire came recently with the issuance of press release issued by the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

That September 20th Ohio Attorney General communique stated that “… a Crawford County man was sentenced for dumping 600 gallons of ammonia-contaminated water that ended up in a local waterway, causing a fish kill.

Wesley Christman, 62, of Monnett, was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, complete four years of probation, and not commit any further environmental offenses.”

The release goes on to say that Christman “… then watched the water flow into a storm sewer, knowing the contaminated water would then move into Allen Run, a tributary of the Little Scioto River. The polluted water ultimately caused a fish kill.”

Yet the Ohio Attorney General’s release concluded with the statement how “Agents with the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency investigated the case.”

Missing in the whole and in part of the release, though, was the fact that Ohio Division of Wildlife officers were likewise deeply committed to the case.

The Division of Wildlife was also involved in the Ohio EPA investigation, which was occurring simultaneously, regarding the pollution case. The Ohio EPA pursued charges against the individual involved in the spill and Wildlife staff were prepared to testify in this case,” said Natural Resources Department spokesman, Matt Eiselstein.

Thus, said, Eiselstein, the Wildlife Division similarly investigated the fish kill and subsequently “received $14,451 from the farm co-op involved in this incident.”
Eiselstein said too that claims about the Wildlife Division abdicating its pollution investigation activity are untrue, nothing that Ohio law still designates that agency as the lead one in such work.

That requirement is channeled in chapters 1531 and 1533 of the Ohio Revised Code, states the agency’s “Pollution Policy” on the subject.

In addition, the Division of Wildlife was designated in 1968 by the General Assembly to have statewide jurisdiction in the enforcement of the stream litter law. Sections 1531.29 and 3767.32 of the ORC prohibit placing debris in or along streams or lakes. Investigation of wild animals killed by stream pollution and stream litter enforcement are both high priority programs in the Division,” the “Pollution Policy” document reads as well.

As a result, said Eiselstein, “no duties were transferred,” while the Wildlife Division officers also investigated the fish kill “and collected monies for the investigation and animals killed.”

They (Wildlife Division officers) also assisted Ohio EPA in the prosecution of the pollution case,” Eiselstein said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ohio anti-puppy mill proposal moves forward; impact on bird dog breeding unknown

A big hurdle has been surmounted regarding an Ohio constitutional amendment affecting the business of breeding dogs.

Called the “Ohio Puppy Prevention Amendment,” the initiative petition was certified by the Ohio Attorney General as having met certain legal criteria. This criteria contained both the necessary 1,000 valid signatures from registered Ohio voters and a “fair and truthful” summary of the proposal, said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

By accepting the filing from attorneys representing “Stop Puppy Mills Ohio,” the Ohio Attorney General has green-lighted the next step, which will mean petitioners have their work cut out for them. They will have to meet various voter signature-gathering requirements in order to place their agenda before Ohio’s voters, likely in 2018. That is the target date the “Stop” group states on its web site.

Ohio has often been cited by animal rights organizations as being a hotbed of of the so-called “puppy mill” business, defined in a 1984 Minnesota court case as “a dog breeding operation in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.”

It is estimated by some animal rights groups that as many as 10,000 licensed and unlicensed puppy mills produce about two million canines annually in the United States with a 2004 estimate of 4,000 dogs born in Ohio.

However, calls in the past for crackdowns on the so called “puppy mill” issue has met some resistance from legitimate bird-dog and houndsman enthusiasts. They fear that a too broadly written law could very well hurt their small and specialized operations that typically involve only one or a few pure-bred female dogs.

As for his duties as Attorney General in regards to this petition, DeWine says:

Without passing upon the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred, but pursuant to the duties imposed upon the Attorney General’s Office I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law.”

DeWine said also that once the summary language and initial signatures are certified, the Ohio Ballot Board must determine if the amendment contains a signle issue or multiple issues.

That requirement is vital. The reason being is that petitioners must then collect signatures for each issue from registered voters in each of 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, equal to five percent of the total vote in the county for the office of governor during the immediately previous gubernatorial election.

Total signatures collected statewide must also equal 10 percent of the total vote cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election, DeWine said.

In other words, more than 305,000 signatures will be needed.

The petitioner’s summary is lengthy and detailed. They also claim that the proposed ballot language will exempt so-called “hobbyist breeders.” This term is defined by the petitioners as keeping seven or fewer unspayed female dogs.

Also exempt are those persons who sell 15 or fewer dogs in the state each year.

However, the requirements as stipulated for the generic term “puppy mill” are rigorous. They include defining the parameters of care, how often dogs are to be fed, continuous access to potable water that is “free of contaminants,” access to veterinarian care, sheltering, exercise, and “socialization.”

It even states how many times a “puppy mill”-eligible female dog can be breed: no more than twice in any 18-month period and no more than six times in a female dog’s lifetime.

Many of the demands are quite specific and includes where dogs can be sold. They include animal shelters, animal rescue centers, legally defined hobbyist breeders, and those commercial breeders who are compliant with the proposed Ohio constitutional amendment, should it ultimately be placed on a near future ballot and after it has met all of the initiative petition requirements.

The full text of today’s letter and the amendment petition submitted by the attorneys for “Stop Puppy Mills Ohio” can be found at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/Petitions.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn