Friday, November 13, 2015
(FIRST UPDATE, 11/14) Wildlife Division gets familiar face to head the agency
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources rummaged through its recycling bin to pluck the latest chief for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
Selected to become the Wildlife Division’s 20th chief is Ray Petering, who will begin his latest stint with the agency November 16.
Petering has some 30 years worth of fish and wildlife management experience in Ohio, the Natural Resources Department says in its announcement, which says also that Petering first retired from the Wildlife Division in 2011.
While with the Wildlife Division initially, Petering headed up the agency’s fish management section as well as served as an acting assistant chief for the Wildlife Division.
Of late Petering also has been working as a consultant with the Natural Resources Department.
What Petering does not have, however, is a badge; and that lack of holding a commission is an often sore point with the Wildlife Division’s rank and file county wildlife officers and other, similarly, commissioned law enforcement officers.
Of the past 10 most recent Wildlife Division chiefs only one-half of them had migrated through the agency’s law enforcement ranks. And of the past five most recent chiefs, just two carried badges: Interim Wildlife Division Chief David Lane in 2011, and Steve Gray, chief from 2003 through 2007.
The problem with non-law Wildlife Division chiefs, opines one former agency commissioned officer is that “they are usually not real pro law.”
“The biologists whine because the officers make as much money as they do and get all the glory,” the source said. “Of course (biologists) do not have to qualify every year with a service pistol, shotgun and rifles, or pass minimum physical fitness standards and walk up to people with guns and knives and then arrest them.”
If given his druthers the source said he would have preferred if the Natural Resources Department had stuck with Lane who kept the chief’s chair warm on an interim basis between David Graham and Scott Zody, neither of whom were commissioned officers.
“Dave Lane is a commissioned Wildlife Officer and would probably have been a good chief,” the source said. “But he was not a yes man and they replaced him with Zody who was.”
That being said the source did note that Petering is “an alright guy.”
Yes, Petering is, agrees John Hageman, a retired fisheries biologist with The Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant agency.
Hageman said he and Petering were college roommates at Ohio State and who spent “many hours (together) in the field slogging through Winous Point marshes, crayfish seining, frog hunting, in Scioto River duck blinds, saugeye fishing in the Scioto rapids, tossing to crappie brush piles and eating BW-3 hot wings on the OSU Campus. Fun times.”
However, Petering likely will not find much in the way of fun and games as the Wildlife Division’s latest agency chief.
Matters involving the agency’s deer management program continue to fester with many hunters, the status of the AEP property in southeast Ohio and its access by sportsmen, the threat of the algae issue on Lake Erie, containment of chronic wasting disease (CWD), getting the state legislature to finally green light fee increases to non-resident hunters all will occupy Petering’s time.
And those issues occupy the mind of Ohio’s sportsmen who wonder what they’ll get with Petering in command.
“My only apprehension is as a fish management guy, I wonder how often he went up against the farm bureau lobby or the ‘let’s drastically thin the deer herd’ guys,” said Dennis Malloy, an official with Whitetails Unlimited in Ohio and also a former Wildlife Division wildlife officer. “I do feel safe and in good hands when it comes to Lake Erie issues and inland walleye stocking programs in lakes such as Mosquito.”
For Malloy then, “the jury is out” when it comes to what Petering will bring to the job and if he’s willing to buck those above him in rank as well as those who answer to him.
The thing is that time is short for the simple Ohio Constitutional reason being that Gov. John Kasich is term-limited out. A new governor will assume command in three years, almost certain to do the usual top-to-bottom reshuffling and jettisoning of administrators. Among them: Chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
Here is the historical list of Ohio Division of Wildlife chiefs and the years they served:
A. “Buck” Rider: 1949 to1950
Lee S. Roach: 1950
Charles A. Dambach: 1950 to 1955
Hayden W. Olds: 1955 to1963
Dale E. Whitesell: 1963 to 1965
Jack F. Kamman: 1965
Daniel C. Armbruster: 1965 to1975
Dale L. Haney: 1975 to1978
Carl L. Mosley: 1978 to 1982
Steven H. Cole: 1982 to1983
Richard P. Francis: 1983 to1984
Max E. Duckworth: 1984 to1985
Clayton H. Lakes: 1985 to1991
Richard B. Pierce: 1991 to1995
Michael J. Budzik: 1995 to 2003
Steven A. Gray: 2003 to 2007
David M. Graham: 2007 to 2011
David Lane: 2011(Interim)
Scott Zody: 2011 to 2015
Ray Petering: 2015 –
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.