Saturday, August 29, 2015

UPDATED 09/04/2015: Two years out and once-defrocked Wildlife Division officer back with agency

After avoiding felony charges in exchange for pleading “no contest” to two misdemeanor charges nearly three years ago, former Ohio Division of Wildlife official David A. Warner has regained employment with the agency.


Warner’s first day back with the Wildlife Division was August 10. He assumed the same position he held at the time of his 2012 dismissal: field supervisor.


In a legally binding five-page agreement between Warner and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the former will receive $66,000 in back pay.


Also agreed to is a $27,000 payment by the Natural Resources Department for employer contribution to Warner’s retirement package along with being credited with lost seniority.


Coupled with that payment and credit comes a pledge by the Natural Resources Department to “...take the reasonable legal steps for Warner to receive credit with the Public Employees Retirement System…”


The document says as well that Warner is to be given a 60-working day suspension, though this action was deemed retroactively served from September 21, 2012 to December 17, 2012.


In exchange for his signature on the document, Warner does agree “ fully waive any and all claims related to the termination (of) his employment with (the) ODNR/ODW.”


Warner signed the five-page settlement August 4th while Natural Resources Director James Zehringer added his signature August 24th.


All of this came about as Warner sought legal relief by filing a civil service appeal with the Ohio Personnel Board of Review as well as submitting an appeal in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.


Originally, Warner was indicted in July, 2012 for alleged theft in office – a fifth degree felony, alleged tampering with records – a third degree felony, and alleged dereliction of duty – a third degree misdemeanor.


Those charges were swapped out in November, 2012. That was Warner agreed before the Brown County Court of Common Pleas to plead “no contest” to a pair of lesser misdemeanors: obstruction of official business as well as unauthorized use of property.


Warner also agreed to pay restitution to the Wildlife Division for wages he did not earn, a keystone item demanded by Brown County Prosecutor Jessica Little as a condition linked to the reduction of charges.

Based on information supplied by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, on May 13, 2013 Warner issued a check for $708.76 to the agency's director, James Zehringer.

All of these alleged misdeeds came about as a result of an Ohio Inspector General investigation. That investigation alleged how Warner – along with Wildlife Division commissioned officer Matthew Roberts - hunted while on duty and then allegedly “fudged” their time slips to incorrectly say they were on duty at the time.


Subsequently, Warner was fired September 21, 2012 while Roberts was discharged September 28, 2012.


Yet that was then and this is now as Warner has again put on his Wildlife Division-issued uniform, working since August 8th in the agency’s Wildlife District One (Central Ohio) environs.


And the mutually acceptable settlement notes in legal jargon how both parties want to put the affair behind them and to move on.


“Except as specifically set forth herein, Warner and (the) ODNR/ODW wish to bring a complete, final and irreversible end to any and all claims and disputes…” which have been raised or ever will be raised regarding the issue related to the Warner matter.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Holden Arboretum give deer the boot from institution's core area

While the Kirtland-based Holden Arboretum was all too happy to show deer the door, the welcome mat was strictly one way – and that way was out.

Today – August 24 - the 3,600-plus acre Arboretum took to the woods and fields of its 233-acre “core” area to skedaddle any white-tails found within the deer-forbidden zone.

More than 75 Holden staff, volunteers and Ohio Division of Wildlife personnel spent about an hour and one-half combing through the core zone.

It was their task to drive any animals lounging around in this unit, hoping to funnel the deer by wedging them between columns of heavy-duty wooden fence posts and three miles worth of eight-foot tall Tenax C-style fencing material.

The drivers were split into seven drive cells, each party assigned a set track to follow.

Their object was to motivate the deer to escape through five one-way portals. These planned-for escape route venues consisted of two so-called jump-outs and three escape gates.

Jump-outs are earthen inclines placed between fencing. The idea is that deer will run up a ramp and then leap the several feet to outside the deer enclosure. The experiences noted by other entities that’ve employed jump-outs indicate that deer are much less willing to go the other way.

Escape gates are specially designed structures that deer can press against in an outward direction but not inward, says Clem Hamilton, the Arboretum’s president and CEO.

At the heart of the core area’s deer enclosure design – which also includes specially designed metal grates across roadways that repel hoofed animals – is to protect the Arboretum’s extensive and unique plant gardens.

These gardens are popular attractions for members who pay reasonable annual dues as well as non-members who pay a daily rate.

Also, the Arboretum is in the process of a several year/multi-million dollar renovation and construction project that includes the recent addition of a 65-foot tall, 202 step wooden observation tower and a 500-foot long wooden foot bridge that is likewise suspended 65 feet above the ground and courses through the forested canopy.

Besides, Hamilton said, the deer had to go in order to protect the Arboretum’s extensive plant collections that include hundreds of rhododendron plants and a whole lot more floral deer candy.

“One thing I did hear from some of our members is that the fencing was not very attractive but I reminded them that we won’t have to fence the individual gardens,” Hamilton said. “Besides, we’ll now have valuable plant stock and trees that won’t become browse for hungry deer. I’d say that’s a pretty good tradeoff.”

As for how many deer were actually given their eviction notice the 80 or so drivers convinced less than a handful of whitetails to vamoose. Among them was a dandy in-velvet buck that took the cue and used one of the jump-outs to make good its escape.

“We really didn’t know what to expect but there were deer here in the core this morning,” said Holden police officer Tony Piotrowski. “It was a good effort and now we know the jump-outs and escape gates work.”

 Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 125 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

Monday, August 17, 2015

El Nino may give Ohio sportsmen the mild winter they haven't seen in 17 years

If the bulk of climatologists’ computer models are correct than Ohio’s deer hunters could see themselves hunting in shirtsleeves while Lake Erie ice-fishing guides may see that their shanties stay in mothballs this winter.

Predicting that an unusually strong – perhaps even record-setting strong – El Nino not only is forming but may extend through the first quarter of 2016, climatologists are looking at its likely far-reaching consequences.

And if those computer-generated climatic models continue to hold steady than the resulting weather affairs may very well claw and maul their way across much of the Western Hemisphere.

For sure it’s complicated with climate-studying scientists cloaking their predictions in some pretty fancy, $10 post-graduate study terminology.

 “All models surveyed predict El Niño to continue into the Northern Hemisphere (through) spring, 2016, and all multi-model averages predict a strong event at its peak in late fall/early winter…,” says the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center along with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society.

“At this time, the forecaster consensus unanimously favors a strong El Niño... Overall, there is a greater than 90-percent chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, and around an 85-percent chance it will last into early spring.”

In a nutshell, the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the big kid on the block; it can bully, intimidate, recruit and compel a host of other weather-makers, not only in the Western Hemisphere but world wide.

 “Obviously the forecast outlook will be updated and refined, which is something that we do once a month with the next update scheduled for mid-September,” Halpert said.

On average an El Nino condition develops about every three to seven years. The last time an especially strong El Nino muscled weather patterns in a huge way was 1997-1998, says Halpert.

What occurs in the years when El Nino becomes the dominating weather factor the winds higher in the atmosphere’s run more straight line west to east. Thus these upper air currents help keep bitterly cold winter temperatures “locked up over Canada,” Halpert says.

Specifically for Ohio, in a year where El Nino flexes its muscles, precipitation levels from January to March can range anywhere from 63 percent to 75 percent of average for each of the state’s 10 designated climatic regions for the

In terms of temperatures during an active El Nino weather campaign, in Ohio for the period December through February can run from 1.1 degree to 2.4 degrees above average. Again, for Ohio’s 10 designated climatic regions.

As for this year’s ENSO-enhanced weather patterns impacting at least northern Ohio, the odds for warmer than average temperatures are 40 percent, and with the same percentage for below average precipitation.

Refined further then, Ohio could encounter 10 fewer inches of snow.

Currently, climatic computer modeling suggests that for the period December through March drier than average conditions are expected for much of Ohio,” Halpert says.

“Understand that during an El Nino pattern there is typically a stronger signal for drier weather than for below or above average temperatures,” Halpert says as well.

Take Lake-Effect snow storms which “…may mask the ENSO response in some years at stations in the vicinity of the Great Lakes and (the) Appalachian Mountains,” says also the National Weather Service.

Still, the prevailing historical record notes that for seven of the past eight El Nino-enhanced events precipitation was less than the recorded average.

 “During a moderate to strong ENSO, winters in the Ohio Valley and lower Great Lakes are likely to be warmer and drier than normal. This in turn results in below normal snowfall across the region, aside from lake effect areas,” the Weather Service says in one of its latest reports on the subject.

As might be expected, climatic are hedging their best computer modeling guesses. A more transparent El Nino-inspired climatic view is still one to two months down the road, Halpert says also.

“It’s a possibility, not a promise,” Halpert says. “We can’t always be correct.”
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 125 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

(UPDATED last four paragraphs) Maine's fish and wildlife agency jacklighted by "The Animal Planet"

Maine’s state wildlife officials were none too pleased that the non-network network Animal Planet opined for the abolishment of so-called big-game trophy hunting.

Even more horrifying for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife was that Animal Planet’s on-line website encouraged readers to contribute to two of the so-called animal rights movement’s most outspoken anti-hunting groups: The Humane Society of the United States and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Why any of this should honk off Maine’s fish and wildlife managers and game wardens is because one of the Animal Planet highly touted and prestigious weekly program is “North Woods Law.”

This one-hour-long weekly program (new episodes are aired on Sundays) focuses on Maine’s game warden service.

Consequently, for the Animal Planet to air on a weekly basis the daily interactions of Maine’s game wardens with lawful an unlawful sportsmen and sportswomen and then advocate not only abolishing trophy hunting but also pitching a plea for donations to the HSUS and the IFAW has – on the surface at least - proved over the top for that state’s fish and wildlife managers.

Such is particularly true since the Animal Planet made an anti-trophy hunting sales pitch during its August 2nd North Woods Law episode.

Fueling insult to injury the HSUS even largely bankrolled last fall’s failed attempt at the ballot box to outlaw several forms of Maine’s black bear hunting.

The Animal Planet’s “Animals Are Not Trophies/This is why Cecil’s Death Matters” statement – which is still being posted on-line as of this writing – says in part: “(The) Animal Planet is outraged and heartbroken by the recent killing of Cecil the lion.

“The network strongly opposes the deplorable practice of trophy hunting, asserting that it devastate conservation efforts, reduces wildlife populations and weakens the populations’ gene pools.”

If that statement were not enough than the string of readers’ comments about the possibility of poaching of Cecil was even more strident.

One commenter said Cecil’s death was “murder” while the Minnesota dentist accused of the act – Dr. Walter James Palmer - is “white trash” and who should be “hung.”

None of which pleased Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Mart Latti, Outreach and Communications official with Maine’s Fisheries /Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said he had not seen the Animal Planet’s August 2nd episode with its anti-trophy-hunting public service announcement.


Nor had Latti taken a gander at the Animal Planet’s web site that prominently displays its position paper on the subject. And this position statement still resides alongside the Animal Planet’s promotion of “North Woods Law.”


“I can tell you that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has contacted the production company of the show to voice our serious concerns with the placement and content of Animal Planet’s statement including the online links to the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare organizations that are opposed to all types of hunting.” Latti said.


“We are working to fix this situation, and either (I) or another member of the department will be in touch in the near future to provide you with an update.”


That said, as of this writing the Animal Planet’s web page layout and content still highlights an unchanged “Animals Are Not Trophies” commentary.

Going further, the on-line “Channel Guide Magazine” web site said that the Animal Planet presented “World Lion Day” programming August 10 as “a marathon of lion-related” shows that will be “dedicated to Cecil the lion…”

“..(Animal) Planet’s campaign ‘’ is a resource for those who want to take action against trophy hunting and poaching,” Channel Guide Magazine quotes the Animal Planet as saying.

“Cecil’s senseless slaughter is a vivid reminder of how vulnerable these magnificent animals are to human threats.”

And yet with all of this being said the web site for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife does not yet at least include any commentary addressing the agency’s concerns.

Indeed, on Animal Planet’s “This is why Cecil the Lion’s Death Matters’” commentary by a Jodi Westrick, the non-network network not only includes “North Woods Law” as a “tag” item but likewise includes a coupling to a North Woods Law segment entitled “Deer Bait Leads To Evidence of Poaching.”

This, as of August 19, presumably after the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife contacted the Animal Planet to express its “serious concerns” and was working “to fix the situation.”
The rebranded Columbus-based “Sportsmen’s Alliance” – formerly United States Sportsmen’s Alliance – did not return with a reply regarding an inquiry pertaining to this matter.
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn