Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ohio's Wildlife Division decides what deer hunters will know and when they'll know it

Oh, this is all so deliciously arrogant of a state government bureaucracy bent on manipulating what information it believes the public is capable of understanding.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife administration has begun prepping the media and the state’s sportsmen on the new way the agency will be providing data for the up-coming deer and turkey kill statistics.
In short, the watered-down material will pretty much be delivered on a need-to-know basis, largely curtailing the use of year-to-year comparisons.
By declaring that it will “… no longer include harvest comparisons in news releases or in the weekly harvest reports” the Wildlife Division’s leadership has determined that it – and it alone – knows what data, statistics and information Ohio’s deer and turkey hunters are best capable of understanding.
“Traditionally, harvest numbers have been released in comparison to the past year’s harvest, or by ranking county harvests. Neither of these comparisons has relevance or biological significance when considering wildlife management goals. While on the surface this may seem harmless, it has resulted in significant confusion and a lack of understanding among hunters and other interested parties,” said the Wildlife Division’s acting communication’s chief John  Windau.
Windau made the statement in an electronic press release sent September 28 to members of the media.
The stuff that exists between the lines of the Wildlife Division’s new deer/turkey kill information distribution policy points with ever-so-sharp precision how Ohio’s sportsmen are ill-prepared and somehow incapable of understanding  statistics and data without the information first being filtered by the Wildlife Division.
To claim that by comparing one year’s or one week’s county-by-county deer or turkey kill numbers against another year’s  or week’s “…raw data without incorporating and factoring this other information leads to false conclusions, assumptions, and confusion” is a deliberately armed torpedo aimed squarely at the very core of openness in government.
Thus and consequently, the Wildlife Division’s leadership patronizingly believes that Ohio’s deer and turkey hunters need to be spoon fed pre-digested numbers in order for the information to be relevant, the agency condescendingly huffs and puffs.
What we are seeing here, of course, is a division, a department, and an administration that genuinely - and perhaps purposefully - confuses opaqueness for transparency.
No less suspect is how the Wildlife Division’s big guns are attempting to deflect criticism by basically noting that those who oppose the agency’s efforts at manipulating deer and turkey kill data are, shall we say, unpatriotic.
In a separate email exchange with a number of the state’s outdoor writers, Windau said “What is important is how populations are managed, the importance of hunting for conservation, and the health and quality of Ohio's deer herd.
“The fact is that Ohio has an exceptional deer herd because of the management practices, and that is a story that seems to get forgotten by the media.”
If laying a guilt trip on the media is what the Wildlife Division’s leadership is seeking it is doubtful that many of Ohio’s outdoor media members will bum a ride.
The Wildlife Division does say in its electronic missive that, yes, if a person really, really does want to compare one subset of deer or turkey kill numbers against another subset, a way exists to uproot such information.
“For those who still wish to make these comparisons, the data is still available from past news releases, the annual deer harvest summaries (publication 304) (actually publication 5304), and from the past year’s harvest updates, all available at wildohio.gov.,” the agency’s electronic notice says.
However, this will require a sportsman or a member of the media to hunt and peck his or her way through the labyrinth and sometimes Byzantine Wildlife Division electronic file cabinet; but without the assistance of the librarian, of course.
Ultimately what we are encountering here is an increasingly belligerent Wildlife Division leadership crowing that it knows what’s best not only for Ohio’s deer herd and turkey flock but also Ohio’s deer and turkey hunters.
Simultaneously the Wildlife Division’s brass has launched an offensive diversionary tactic directed at its critics by attempting to make these cynics believe they are in some fashion culpable in fostering an uncharitable attitude regarding the agency.
In the end we are witnessing a once-respected state agency moving from a policy of politely asking “How may I help you?” to one that now sneeringly responds “Go away; I’m busy. Look it up yourself.”
It’s all so very sad, really.
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.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ohio, Feds make deer trafficking case stick, results in $1.6 million judgement

In what proved to be the largest-ever fine ever assessed for breaking the federal government's Lacey Act, a Georgia businessman has been ordered to pay $1.6 million for trafficking in live deer in an attempt to illegally move them from Ohio to Florida.

And the circumstances of being caught demonstrates that the criminal didn't do a very good job of transporting the animals, either.

Here is the release from the U/S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which pretty much says it all and mirrors that of the one issued by the U.S. Attorney General's office. The agency's press release reads:

"Benjamin N. Chason, 61, of Climax, Georgia pleaded guilty and was sentenced in U.S. District Court for three charges related to violating the Lacey Act. Chason was ordered to pay $1.6 million in fines and restitution, the largest sum of money ordered of an individual to pay for a wildlife crime in the United States.
"Of the $1.6 million, $600,000 is to be paid into the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Habitat Fund $200,000 to the Federal Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund, $400,000 to Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks and $100,000 to the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife Turn in a Poacher (TIP) program.
"Carter Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Gregory Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, Chief Scott Zody, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced the sentence, which was unsealed yesterday.
"According to court documents, Chason and co-conspirator Donald W. Wainwright, Sr., trafficked in live white-tailed deer. Wainwright, Sr. owned hunting preserves in Logan County, Ohio, and Live Oak, Florida; both preserves were named Valley View Whitetails. Donald Wainwright, Jr. was part-time resident and part-time operator of the site in Ohio. Chason was part-owner of Valley View Whitetails in Ohio and also owned an extensive high-fenced property containing white-tailed deer in Climax, Georgia.
"Wainwright, Sr. illegally shipped deer to Florida from Ohio and attempted to ship deer to Georgia from Ohio. The deer herds involved with these shipments were not certified to be free from chronic wasting disease, tuberculosis and brucellosis. Federal law requires interstate shipments of deer to be certified to be disease-free; because the deer in the present case were not certified as disease-free, deer herds (both captive and wild) in Florida were potentially exposed to these diseases. Tuberculosis and brucellosis can also be transmitted from deer to cows and humans.
"The attempted shipment to Georgia was intercepted on I-71 South, about 50 miles from the Ohio River, when Ohio Division of Wildlife officers noticed deer noses and antlers inside a cargo trailer and pulled over a truck driven by Wainwright, Sr.’s employees.
"Wainwright Sr. and Chason placed federal identification tags from a certified deer that had previously died into the ear of an uncertified deer they were selling. They then sold breeding services and semen from the deer to breeders around the United States.
"The defendants also sold illegal white-tailed deer hunts at Valley View Whitetails of Ohio. They induced clients from around the country to hunt at Valley View Whitetails of Ohio – charging customers from $1,000 to $50,000 to kill deer inside his high fence preserve when Wainwright did not have a hunting preserve license. The customers then took the bucks back to their home states, including: Florida, Michigan, Alabama and Virginia.
“Illegal sale and transport of white-tailed deer are serious crimes and I appreciate the teamwork and cooperation between all of the agencies involved to help obtain these convictions,” ODNR Division of Wildlife Chief Scott Zody said.
"We are pleased to see the positive results in this investigation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement considers the potential spread of disease caused by the illegal commercialization of fish and wildlife resources a high priority, and we will continue to work closely with our State partners to assist them in these important investigations," said Edward Grace, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Assistant Director for Law Enforcement.
"Chason pleaded guilty on May 1, 2014. Besides being ordered to pay restitution, Chason was sentenced to three years of probation and four months of home confinement. Chason also agreed to publish a statement in North American Whitetail Magazine and perform 150 hours community service in an Ohio or Georgia State Park.
"Wainwright, Sr. pleaded guilty on February 27, 2015, to 12 charges related to violating the Lacey Act, one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison, a $125,000 fine 200 hours of community service to be served in a parks system and ordered to publish an article in The Deer Breeders Gazette.
"Wainwright, Jr. pleaded guilty on February 17, 2015, to eight charges related to offering illegal hunts in violation the Lacey Act and was sentenced to four months of house arrest and three years of probation.
"Under the Lacey Act, it is unlawful to import, export, transport, sell or purchase wildlife, fish or plants that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of a state, federal or foreign law. When it was passed in 1900, the Lacey Act became the first federal law protecting wildlife.
"U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by law enforcement, as well as Special Assistant United States Attorney Heather Robinson with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office and Assistant United States Attorneys J. Michael Marous and Peter Glenn-Applegate, who represented the United States in this case."
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, September 16, 2015

Wildlife Division chief Zody resigns - Includes his electronically-sent statement to agency employees

Scott Zody, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife for two months shy of four years, tendered his resignation, effective October 2.

The 49-year-old Zody has more than 25 years of employment invested in the Natural Resources Department. By resigning, Zody will give up an annual salary of $106,870.

Zody sent late afternoon September 15th (Tuesday) via cellular telephone service his resignation announcement to some or all Wildlife Division employees along with a select list of others involved in the outdoors community.

This announcement by Zody is included in its entirety at the conclusion of the ollowing main story.

Natural Resources Department media spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said the news of Zody’s resignation was a little unexpected though the department does have in place protocols for such contingencies.

“We’re always working on succession planning but this was a little bit of a surprise,” McCorkle told the Ohio Outdoor News.

Asked if the Natural Resources Department has any idea who it will pick to replace Zody – even on an interim basis - McCorkle told the Ohio Outdoor News that it is “too early to tell.”

“We are, though, in discussions,” McCorkle said.

Zody has a long career working for various Ohio county and state governmental institutions. Among them included the Fairfield County Board of Commissioners, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, and the Legislative Service Commission.

Likewise, before he went to work for the Natural Resources Department Zody worked for former Ohio State Senator and Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Richard “Dick” Schafrath.

And about one year ago Zody did apply for the job of executive director of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks District, though he was not selected by that entity’s park board.

During his nearly four-year stint as the head of the Wildlife Division Zody had to deal with a mind-bending array of contentious issues, some of which he inherited. Included in the list of prickly matters that Zody had to navigate his agency through and around was the issue of the so-called Brown County Five, wildlife officers assigned to the agency’s District Five (southwest Ohio office) found hunting while on duty, media-fed flaps over various people raising wild fawn deer without the necessary Wildlife Division permits, whether the Wildlife Division or the Ohio Department of Agriculture should have authority over deer propagation businesses, the appearance of chronic wasting disease in a Holmes County captive deer herd, and facing two consecutive failed attempts to get the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly to increase non-resident hunting license fees.

However, what may be the most querulous issue that stalked Zody – and which no doubt will also shadow his replacement - is how the Wildlife Division has and is managing its deer herd.  Many Ohio hunters say that the Wildlife Division’s strategy of employing liberal bag limits and generous hunting seasons has sent the state’s deer population into a nose dive.

Thus, with all of the fore-mentioned matters boiling on the state’s wildlife management stove, Zody has his share of critics – and perhaps, then some.

Among them is Brown County resident and wildlife policy Cerberus, Troy Conley.

For years Conley has dogged the Wildlife Division in an effort to uncover what he believes to be improper agency personnel conduct as well as clutching unto policies that run against the grain of benefitting both wildlife and sportsmen’s interests.

“I met with Scott Zody shortly after he filled the position as chief and I had high hopes he would step in and start making some badly needed changes to clean up the huge mess which began here in District Five (southwest Ohio),” Conley said.

Conley said also that some small and positive steps were taken under Zody’s tutelage, though much more remains to be done in order to “repair the integrity that was destroyed.”

“But I truly wish Mr. Zody well in all of his future endeavors, and I hold out hope that his replacement will hold accountable any employee caught in any wrong-doing,” Conley said.

Yet even some of the agency’s harshest critics - who contend that the Wildlife Division has experienced not only a severe slump in employee morale but also a loss of credibility in the eyes of the agency’s constituency base – wish Zody well.

“Scott always carried himself in a professional and dignified manner, even when we disagreed with each other,” said Dennis W. Malloy Jr. of Cortland and a field representative for Whitetails Unlimited.

That said, Malloy said as well that Ohio’s sportsmen were too often stymied in seeing their points regarding deer management and other issues heard, let alone, adopted, by the Wildlife Division during Zody’s tenure as chief.

“We haven’t been happy with the direction the Wildlife Division has taken regarding (especially) deer management under Scott’s leadership,” Malloy said. “What we need to do is begin to rebuild the trust between the Wildlife Division and the state’s sportsmen and sportswomen.”

In an email sent to employees of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife – with C.C. copies to other individuals associated with Ohio’s outdoors community –Scott Zody addresses his decision to step down October 2nd from his role as the agency’s chief.

Here is the text of Zody’s email statement to Wildlife Division employees and others, sent via his cellular telephone at 2:44 p.m., Tuesday, September 15:

“By now most of you have probably heard the news/rumor that I have submitted my intent to resign as the Chief effective October 2nd.  I am writing to let you know that is indeed accurate.  

“This decision was of my choosing and under my terms.

“The past 4 years serving as your Chief have been challenging to say the least, but in spite of the obstacles placed before us, we still accomplished much.

“Looking past the frustrations and difficulties we faced, we have moved the agency in a positive direction by becoming more accessible to our customers and improved our operational efficiencies and partnerships, both internal and external.

“My biggest disappointment has been not achieving long term financial stability for the Division, but I am confident you, working with our stakeholders, will finish the job we set out to do 3 years ago.

“While I may be embarking on a new path in my own career, I will always try to do what I can to be helpful to the Division of Wildlife.  I am and will remain proud to have the honor of serving you.

“Best wishes and God speed.”

Chief Z(ody)

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 is 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.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Alas, Coast Guard couldn't also fix stupid when it came to saving two Lake Erie boaters

You’d think common sense would prevail when the winds churning the waters of Lake Erie enough to send its waves crashing over the Route 2/90 Shoreway in Cleveland.

Ah, but then you’d forget that boaters sometimes let their common sense screws loosen. And that can become a huge problem, not only for the errant mariner but for those pledged to render aid even for the most foolish among us.

And, brother, a situation that occurred the evening of September 11 was a super-duper dozy of human, well, stupidity.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s District headquarters reported that two boaters were in distress near the Cedar Point Marina, which is located close to Sandusky.

However, their vessel was a pontoon boat you know, one of those comfy barges intended for a leisurely good time on the calm waters of an inland lake or reservoir.

With the Coast Guard saying the waves on Lake Erie had built to four- to six-feet the federal agency sent  a 45-foot rescue vessel from its nearby Marblehead station.

Responding to the scene in just 13 minutes the Coast Guard saved the two boating souls. The service also noted – quite charitably I must add – that the two boaters “… appeared to be in good health aboard the rescue boat.”

“The individuals were not wearing life jackets and did not have any on board,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Janowiec, officer of the day at Station Marblehead. “I can’t stress enough the importance of wearing a life jacket when you are on the water.”

As for the pontoon boat, that washed ashore on the Cedar Point Beach and will be removed by a marine salvage company, the Coast Guard said as well.

Just how a silly-to-stupid boater goes about salvaging his or her common sense, well, that’s a service even a well-trained entity such as the Coast Guard is unable to provide.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Advice on guns for President Obama as he visits Alaska

Barack Obama – president of these here United States – and who unintentionally moonlights as the best firearms salesman in the nation’s history, is up in Alaska.

Yes, the land of the Midnight Sun, polar bears, gold mines, oil and Sarah Palin is hosting the president over the next several days.

So excited is the president that he is maintaining a running blog on his three-day tour.

How I got in on being a recipient of this interesting commentary only the White House knows but I am thankful for being included.

In his first entry today (Tuesday, September 1st) President Obama wrote:

“Yesterday I touched down in Alaska for a three-day tour -- a trip I've been looking forward to for a long time. Not only because Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in a country that's full of beautiful places -- but because I'll meet with everyday Alaskans about what's going on in their lives, and I expect to learn a lot.”

Oh, how I am happy to hear that President Obama truly wants to meet with “everyday Alaskans.” Hopefully such encounters will include spending time with Alaska’s more-than-a-few gun owners,

And if he does I made a few suggestions and returned replied them to the White House.

Here then, is my written response:

“You do know, Mr. President, that Alaska has some of the least intrusive gun control laws. In fact, Mr. President, people do not even need a permit to carry a firearm concealed.

“On top of that, Sir, AR-platform rifles are popular in our 49th state and are used for hunting, competition as well as personal protection for their owners and their families.

“I would trust, Mr. President, that you would take some time out of your obviously very busy schedule to learn how all of these less-intrusive gun-control laws not only fall within the purview of the Constitution's Second Amendment but that they have not contributed to crime as many gun control advocates say happens when government stays out of people's gun cabinets.

“Thank you, Mr. President, and enjoy Alaska - land that a Republican Administration bought for a song and a dance.”

 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.