Some sportsmen are wondering if the Kasich Administration is prepared to touch the third rail of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources: It’s fiscally solvent and constituency-strong Ohio Division of Wildlife.
These sportsmen’s fear is that Kasich and his hand-picked Natural Resources Department team wants to pull the Wildlife Division’s canines and replace them with politically kinder and gentler false teeth. The kind that doesn’t bite back.
A portion of this fear rests on the fact that the Kasich Administration reposted the Wildlife Division chief’s job. This sent - to believe these sportsmen - the status of acting agency chief Vicki Mountz into a state of limbo.
Of concern is that the Kasich Administration through the workings of its newly installed director David Mustine wants to hire instead a “company” outsider, one who wouldn’t rock the Natural Resources boat, support the reduction of Central Support for the Wildlife Division and generally turn a deaf ear to the state’s anglers, hunters and trappers.
It is said by some who know the Natural Resources Department’s inner workings that morale within the agency as a whole is abysmal with that in the Wildlife Division being likewise in the tank.
Thus the rumor mill is in overdrive with the expectation that Mountz has been eliminated from permanent possession of the chief’s job. Sort of like what happens in one of those reality television shows when someone is sent packing or off to an exile island to ponder their future.
Of equal concern are the persistent rumblings that the Kasich Administration plans to eventually consolidate the underlings within the Natural Resources Department.
Such a move might include separating the Wildlife Division’s current system of a combined fish/wildlife management system fused with law enforcement to one with separate, parallax entities, these concerned sportsmen fear.
What could come as result of such a divisional disembowelment would be a stand-alone fish and wildlife management corps and an uber one-size-fits-all law enforcement group that would enforce not only wildlife laws but also incorporate the duties presently performed by state park rangers, some foresters and Watercraft Division patrol personnel.
A paralogism of this sort is anathema to many sportsmen who believe that such an erosion would not only subtract from the Wildlife Division’s abilities but shrink their carefully guarded and nurtured relationship with both the Natural Resources Department and the Wildlife Division.
Just how all of this plays out over the next several months will become not only the fodder for reporters and columnists but more importantly, the concern of people who pay the bills: Ohio’s sportsmen and their benefactors.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn