Thursday, May 16, 2013

Four Ohio Wildlife Council members take risk, take stand

Often said to be feckless in discharging its duties, the eight-person Ohio Wildlife Council stood up Wednesday to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Instead of rubber-stamping several last-minute and politically motivated changes to the already-set 2013-2014 Ohio deer-hunting regulations, the council did what few people ever expected: Four of the council member said “no” and three said “yes.”

The four who voted nay were Horace Karr of Meigs County, Charlie Frank of Newark, Paul Mechling of Ashtabula County's Pierpont Township, and Tim Ratliff of Winchester in Brown County.

Voting yea were Karen Linkard of Xenia, Larry Mixon of Columbus, and George Klein of Akron.

Council member Stephen Seliskar of Lake County was not present and consequently did not vote.

Thus while the council's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse may feel the political wrath of some state lawmakers who demanded things be done their way, the four members showed the legislators the highway.

Which led three of the other council members to do what sportsmen have long regarded they would do, that being, always say “yes” if you want to keep this really cool job.

At issue were several key last-minute changes brought to the table late last week by Wildlife Division chief Scott Zody.

Among the proposals was to first tack on two days of firearms allowance immediately prior to the start of the three-day, statewide muzzle-loading-only deer-hunting season.

As put forth by Zody the prior firearms hunt would run Friday, Jan. 3 and Saturday, Jan. 4, while Sunday, Jan. 5 through Tuesday, Jan. 7 was to be reserved exclusively for those hunters who use primitive weapons such as muzzle-loading rifles.

Had the Council approved Zody's recommendation – and few doubted the council would ever say no to anything - the net result would have resulted in a major mid-course correction to the state's deer-hunting regulations.

Importantly for many sportsmen, Zody's push was made without the usual series of open houses and public hearings designed to solicit the opinions and thoughts of hunters of all stripes.

In a classic case of double-speak, Zody called the piggybacking of a gun hunt with a muzzle-loading hunt a “blended gun/muzzle-loading season.”

The thing is, the additional proposals were launched following political arm-twisting.

Among those politicians flexing their elected muscles was state Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield.

Widener is a member of the state Senate's extremely powerful Ways and Means Committee.

And Widener even went so far as to send a letter to Zody, opining on the-then proposed deer-hunting regulation changes. Among Widener's protestations was the elimination of the two-day mid-December firearms deer-hunting season.

As mentioned previously in this blog, somewhere along the illuminated path Zody saw the light. He then followed up by instructing his staff to reexamine the proposed (later approved) refined deer-hunting regulations to see if there is anything we want to adjust.”

And it is Widener who found himself linked closely with the highly divisive proposals.

Of course, when it comes to hardball politics revenge is a dish best served cold. Which stands to reason the four “nay” Ohio Wildlife Council members may very well have sealed their own status as overseers of the Ohio Division of Wildlife's rule-making authority.

Yet if they are keel-hauled for misbehaving and sawing against the grain, at least the four properly and correctly discharged their duties.

Can't ask any more of a non-elected government appointee.

After all this being said, there is still a huge hurdle, maybe two, that must be jumped over.

The original proposed 2013-2014 deer-hunting regulations now move to a bipartisan group of state legislators called JCARR, which approves administratively established rules of all kinds and by all state agencies.

Should JCARR reject the proposals the matter then is required by law to be taken up by the full Ohio House and the Ohio State Senate.

If the Ohio General Assembly rejects the proposals then the entire matter of deer hunting regulations enters uncharted and even deeper politically muddy waters.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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