Thursday, June 22, 2017

GOP-led Ohio Senate proposes letting landowning nonresidents buy resident hunt/fish tags

The Republican-controlled state Senate snuck a provision into Ohio’s two-year proposed Operating Budget Bill that would give non-resident sportsmen resident hunting and fishing status.

On June 21st after meeting behind closed doors in caucus over the budget bill, Ohio’s 24 Republican state senators inserted into the proposal’s language two key components regarding residency as it relates to buying hunting and fishing licenses and associated permits.

While sportsmen are just beginning to discover this political gamesmanship strategy by the state Senate, the Columbus-based Sportsman’s Alliance is particularly concerned. The group is worried that the attention these insertions are bringing will draw attention away from what the organization believes is the real budgetary prize.

That matter has to do with fee increases to both resident and nonresident hunting and fishing license fees. In this regard, too, the Republicans have given the Sportsman’s Alliance only a partial loaf.

As for nonresidents receiving residential license-buying privileges, the budget proposal’s language includes revisions to the Ohio Revised Code, Section 1533. These proposed changes would allow nonresidents who own any amount of land in Ohio to be exempt from purchasing a hunting license on the property they own – and also to be able to purchase a resident hunting license to hunt off of their land anywhere in Ohio.

The proposed language transformation would likewise exempt nonresidents who own land in Ohio from purchasing a deer or turkey tag for use on the property they own – and to be able to purchase resident deer and turkey tags to hunt off of their land anywhere in Ohio.

Currently under Ohio law, a nonresident landowner must purchase a nonresident hunting license to hunt in Ohio, and nonresident deer and turkey tags to hunt those species.

Importantly, too, says critics, none of the other 49 states have such non-resident reciprocity allowances. Thus, with a few exceptions that have limited application, an Ohioan who is a landowner in one of the other states is still required to buy any appropriate nonresident hunting or fishing license, species’ tags and also to follow whatever stipulations exist for applying for special limited draw tags.

These changes give tremendous benefits to nonresidents without providing any benefits to Ohio residents, critics charge.

Fearfully, the critics contend, these changes very possibly would open the door for groups of nonresidents to purchase a small amount of land in Ohio. Such a scheme would thereby qualify all of the individuals as owning real property in Ohio, and subsequently receive resident hunting privileges statewide in the process.

The Sportsman’s Alliance says it too was caught off guard when it finally had the opportunity to examine the state Senate’s Operating Budget bill version.

However, of greater worry, says a Sportsman’s Alliance spokesman, is that any flack regarding the newly inserted residency matter will become a smokescreen that allows the group’s push for license fee increases to escape.

“Our official position is that we have not had time to evaluate properly the impact the residency stipulation changes might have, but it is always a concern whenever things are proposed without properly being vetted in a transparent and open manner,” said Rob Sexton, an Alliance spokesman.

Sexton said such study would – and should – include just how many nonresidents would actually buy land worth thousands of dollars for even a small parcel in order “to save a few bucks on buying a license.”

“We just don’t know yet what such an outcome might be, but it is something that should be looked at carefully,” Sexton said. “On the matter of fairness, though; yes, that is important, of course, and it is a question that sportsmen have a right to ask.”

Thing is, Sexton says also, sportsmen must – in his words - “stay focused” on the effort to seek increases to hunting and fishing fees charged to both residents as well as nonresidents.

This is because these fee increases “will have the greatest impact on the quality of hunting and fishing in Ohio,” Sexton says.

On that score the Sportsman’s Alliance achieved only a small portion of what it was seeking. In tweaking the Ohio House Operating Budget Bill, the GOP-dominated state Senate lowered the former’s proposed nonresident deer tag from $250 to $75; and decrease the nonresident turkey tag to $35, down from the Ohio House version proposed charge of $50.

No increase in any resident fees were proposed by either the Ohio House or the Ohio state Senate.

Sexton says his organization and a confederation of more than 40 sportsmen’s organization intend to challenge any finalized merged Ohio House and state Senate that excludes fee increases to residents as well as allowing nonresidents to enjoy resident status without reciprocity.

Even if that means lobbying Ohio Governor John Kasich to employ his line-item veto power over budgetary issues.

“If these things are still there we will seek his help,” Sexton said.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cuyahoga River rowing crew sails into captizing trouble

A busy Saturday so I am passing this one along as is, though I might add I have seen these crews rowing along the Cuyahoga River, a major Great Lakes commercial port with some really, really big boats and such. Not that I'd do that sort of thing, however. Much too old and have much too much common sense.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

CLEVELAND – The Coast Guard rescued nine people from a capsized rowboat in the Cuyahoga River Saturday (June 16, 2017) morning.

The names of the rescued are not being released and there is no Coast Guard imagery of this rescue available.

At 9 a.m., the watchstander at Coast Guard Station Cleveland Harbor received a mayday call over marine radio emergency channel 16 from a man stating he was part of a group of rowers from a rowing school located on the river and that wake from another boat had caused the rowboat to capsize throwing the nine rowers into the water.

The man stated that he was on a small vessel following the rowers down the river and could not take all nine people to safety.

A rescue crew aboard a 25-foot response boat launched from the station and rescued all nine of the people.

All the rowers were wearing life jackets and there were no medical concerns.

“This is a perfect example of how being prepared can help you in an emergency situation,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Laura Roesch, the officer-of-the-day for Coast Guard Station Cleveland Harbor.

“They were wearing life jackets, had a way to call for help and stayed with the boat after it capsized, which are the three top things to do in this type of situation to stay alive.”

The Coast Guard rescue team took the rowers back to the school and a third boat from the school retrieved the capsized rowboat.

The Coast Guard wants to remind boaters and paddle crafter operators always wear your life jacket, have a way to call from help other than a cell phone and to be mindful of others on the water.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary 2016 Boating Statistics names operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed and machinery failure rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Paddlecraft, including canoes, kayaks, rowboats and stand-up-paddleboards accounted for 24% of the lives lost for 2016, second to open motorboats with 47% of deaths.
Eighty percent of boating accident victims drowned and of those, 83% were not wearing a life jacket.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

UPDATED, SPELL CORRECTED/ Ohio WildlifeDivision jobs need puts A/V technician ahead of officers

(This blog item likely will be updated. Check back for any changes and additions)

In the pecking order to priorities, the Kasich Administration is placing audio-visual and call center technicians ahead of wildlife law enforcement officers being in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Not at all please with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ employment response is the Columbus-based Sportsmen’s Alliance, which has been going toe-to-toe with the agency regarding efforts to increase license fees charged to resident anglers and hunters. The Natural Resources Department opposes them and the Alliance supports them.

Presently there are five counties without a commissioned officer assigned to them: Cuyahoga, Paulding, Hancock, Tuscarawas, and Crawford.

Also absent are two Lake Erie Unit commissioned law enforcement officers, and one commissioned investigative officer in each of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s five wildlife districts.

The absence in Cuyahoga County is perhaps noteworthy in part because the Wildlife Division announced recently that a two-year investigation saw eight people indicted there for allegedly running a deer poaching ring; the deed allegedly accomplished mostly in Cuyahoga County with several of the accused being residents there.

In all, 12 commissioned wildlife law enforcement positions remain vacant; a situation the Kasich Administration via its Ohio Department of Natural Resources leadership does not find particularly worrisome.

In fact, the Natural Resources Department ranks such positions behind other non-commissioned types of work.

“We currently have five counties that are vacant without a dedicated wildlife officer however the adjacent county wildlife officers handle any concerns in the area,” said Natural Resources spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle.

McCorkle said also that on the Natural Resources Department’s list of priorities “not one wildlife officer was included.”

“It is hard to say there is such a need for officers when it is more important per the (Wildlife) Division to hire fish biologist and (Information and Education) staff,” McCorkle says.

Documention provided by McCorkle and listing positions the division of wildlife has prioritized- approved January 19th -  includes: A business group call center supervisor for the agency’s main Columbus campus at Fountain Square;  a Sandusky fish unit supervisor for the agency’s Sandusky Fish Research Station; a fisheries biologist for the same station; a fisheries technician for the agency’s District Two (northwest Ohio) Office; an assistant wildlife management supervisor for the agency’s District One (central Ohio) office; a wildlife area technician for District One’s Deer Creek Wildlife Area; a wildlife area technician for the agency’s District Five (southwest Ohio) office’s Rush Run Wildlife Area; a public information officer for the agency’s main Columbus campus; an audio-visual technician, also for the agency’s main Columbus campus.

Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsman’s Alliance, calls the Natural Resources Department’s pecking order of staffing needs that does not include commissioned officers in all 88 counties “stunning.” This disregard is especially true in light of the vital work these agents perform on behalf of sports persons, landowners and fish and game, Heusinkveld says.

Further, says Heusinkveld, the Natural Resources Department’s position “represents a misleading interpretation of the Wildlife Division’s true needs,” noting that this agency didn’t request any commissioned law enforcement officers because it cannot afford to conduct a cadet training class, “not because of a lack of prioritization.”

“Unfortunately, the ODNR has been incorrectly telling legislators and the media that the Division of Wildlife is flush with funds, when in fact, the agency is facing an 80 million to 90 million-dollar operating shortfall over the next ten years,” Heusinkveld said.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

UPDATE II - 6/15/17:Budzik resigns as sportsmen advisor to Ohio Gov. John Kasich over license fee flap

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Mike Budzik, the long-time sportsman’s and fish-wildlife management advisor to Governor John Kasich and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as well as a retired chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, has resigned.

The move came in direct result of Budzik’s belief that the departmental agency and the Kasich Administration are no longer representing the best interests of the Wildlife Division nor the state’s sportsmen.

By resigning, Budzik forfeits his $14,333 annual salary as an advisor and liaison to Gov. Kasich, paid for through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, along with the use of a departmental vehicle.

At the heart of the issue lies the matter of modest increases to the fishing and hunting license fees paid by resident sportsmen and sportswomen. The Natural Resources Department’s leadership opposes such increases while the Columbus-based Sportsman’s Alliance and its log list of sportsmen- and conservation-based groups support such fee increases.

All sides, however, do back increases to the state’s various non-resident deer-hunting tag fees, though by varying amounts.

The matter is presently before the Ohio State Senate where this week the state’s two-year operating budget is being debated. This proposal was approved by the Ohio House but without any fee increases.

In a very convoluted protocol for weighing such things, the Senate will debate and consider the current proposal, later to take up a laundry list of amendments that will almost certainly include license fee increases, and for which the House is just as certain expected to reject.

The issue then will swirl around various legislative forums, finally arriving at some point before a joint committee made up of members representing both the Ohio House and State Senate and both political parties.

When a deal is finally struck the omnibus budget proposal will go before Governor John Kasich for signing. While the governor can line-item out some points these individual components can only be related to fiscal matters and not to other matters; still potentially endangering any possible legislatively approved hikes to resident fishing-hunting license fees.

This entire matter has so poisoned the well of cooperation that the entire sitting composite of the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council, all living former Wildlife Division chiefs and more than three dozen sportsmen and conservation groups are backing the resident fee increases.

They also have been lobbying Kasich for them, though the Natural Resources Department has been as active in attempting to thwart such increases, calling them unnecessary.

Yet while Budzik was sometimes being criticized for failing to speak up when his former chieftain colleagues were speaking out, it was known that he continued to press for the fee increases through his Administration contacts.

Budzik’s letter to Gov. Kasich expresses his displeasure with the Natural Resources Department’s continued resistance to any license fee increases for the state’s resident anglers, hunters and trappers.

In seeking comment regarding Budzik’s resignation, Natural Resources Department spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle replied simply with: “Mike Budzik did resign on Friday, June 9, 2017 and Director Zehringer thanks him for his service.”

However, the Sportsman’s Alliance was more charitable, its president and CEO, Evan Heusinkveld,  stating that Budzik “has dedicated his entire life to improving and advancing wildlife conservation efforts in Ohio.”

“(Budzik) has been a leader within the Division of Wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources and the sportsmen's community for four decades,” Heusinveld said when asked for a comment about Budzik’s resignation. “His dedication, passion and commitment to Ohio's wildlife and natural areas is unrivaled, and his departure from the DNR leaves a significant set of shoes to fill."

Heusinveld said as well that Budzik “has been one of the most honest, and dedicated, public servants that I have ever known.”

“I have come to rely on his guidance and sound advice," said Heusinkveld. "We share Mike's deep concern about the funding crisis of the Division of Wildlife, as well as the need for Ohio to prioritize the retention of AEP's ReCreation lands."

Below is the complete text of Budzik’s letter to Gov. Kasich. This story will likely be updated as additional information and comments become available.

The text reads:


Dear Governor Kasich,

     I notified Scott Milburn Friday afternoon 6-9-17 that I would resign the last day of this current pay period 6-10-17 because it became apparent to me that the role I was given had come to an end because of a lack of or no meaningful dialog with ODNR leadership, “the thirtieth floor”, and yourself.  I tried on two different occasions to talk with you personally during the last several months primarily about the AEP opportunity, the license fee increase and the Wildlife Officer issue, but to no avail.  I didn’t even get a response. I also had no meaningful discussions with the Department on these issues in spite of the fact that my monthly contact status forms, which I was required to submit, indicated that sportsmen were very, very concerned about these issues.

     Governor, what happened? Why did you and your administration quit talking with me and caring or listening about the concerns of Ohio sportsmen and women?  At the start of my position you were concerned about the sportsmen’s interests and issues.  You preserved the wildlife fund, stood up for the Second Amendment; your leadership on Senate Bill One to improve water quality on Lake Erie was superb.   You and I, along with your administrative staff, had meaningful dialog on many occasions.  But since November 2016, you and your administrative staff became silent and indifferent to the issues of importance to the sportsmen and women of Ohio, when in fact they have stood solidly behind you for nearly six and a half years.  On a personal note I did my level best to put you in the very best light to sportsmen and women in Ohio and nationally only to be rebuffed and cast aside.   If you recall, sportsmen and women filled the backyard of the Governor’s mansion by the hundreds on several occasions.  That positive news or ‘feeling’ was spread across the state of Ohio by outdoor news articles, outdoor magazines and radio.

     Governor, today there is a very different type of news or feeling being spread across the state about the Department and yourself concerning three of the most important sportsmen’s issues that have come forward in more than a decade; the acquisition of AEP Recreation land, the much needed license fee increase, and turning wildlife officers into Department of Natural Resource officers.  In these issues, the facts are abundantly clear: The need and support to acquire the AEP Recreation land is overwhelming. The facts and need for the license fee increase is indisputable. And fact that Ohio sportsmen oppose turning wildlife officers into Natural Resource Officers.

     Governor, as your former policy staff and / or sportsmen liaison advocate I should make you aware of the following: on more than one occasion several sportsmen leaders have been confronted, intimidated and outright lied to by DNR officials and/or by DNR family members at public meetings, an administration official referred to some sportsmen leaders who belong to national conservation organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, as “cult” members.  They have further stated we don’t need or want anyone who belongs to those “cults”, and lastly, some Division of Wildlife officers have been told by a member of the Director’s staff that their days as wildlife officers are numbered- you are going to become part of the Department’s Natural Resource officers, it’s too far down the track- quit fighting it. Now I would question whether these things had ever been said, if I didn’t receive reports like this on a regular basis from many different people that I worked with and have respect.

     Why would any Department official confront or try to intimidate any sportsmen leader or publically disparage any sportsmen or former state employee who has a different opinion from the Department?  These people are passionate about what they believe and know. They should be shown some respect, not branded as members of some conservation “cult”. The truth is that the leadership of ODNR has no regard for the sportsmen and women of Ohio.  And no respect for the organizations that represent them. The Director openly questions whether they even speak for Ohio’s hunters, anglers and trappers.

Earlier this month the Director told the media that he opposes an increase to hunting and fishing fees because he is concerned about decreasing hunting numbers. After nearly six years leading the agency, the first time the Director speaks about one of our top concerns as a community, is to use it as a tool to oppose a long overdue increase in fees.  The truth is that the Division of Wildlife is slowly being financially starved, which prevents it from taking bold steps to try to address this problem, which faces not on Ohio, but all fifty states.  And while the Division of Wildlife has worked for many years on this issue, with some of the groups that have been disparaged by ODNR leadership, the Director has never publicly spoken about his concern over falling hunter numbers, until now as a tool to oppose the license fee increase.

     In our earliest discussions, you mentioned your commitment to seek and provide professional natural resource leadership and your intentions to not transform the Division of Wildlife into something less than what it is.

     I’m asking you to personally get involved with the AEP opportunity. It is truly the wildlife conservation opportunity of a half century. The loss of access to these lands would be a terrible blow to outdoor recreation in Ohio. This issue requires your leadership.  I’m asking for your personal support for the license fee increase. We can’t cut our way to find innovative solutions to attracting new participants, especially in the face of rising healthcare, retirement and salaries, that were all approved by the legislature and this administration.  The fee increase, which has been a rare occurrence, is about business, and providing quality opportunities at a reasonable price.

Lastly, I ask that you commit to keeping the Division of Wildlife whole, leaving wildlife officers to be wildlife officers directed by the Chief of the Division. At this moment, the agency is short 25 officers because it cannot afford their salaries, or the cadet classes to recruit them. Five counties are vacant, having no wildlife officer at all. Issues like this are what has convinced many sportsmen that the administration is trying to financially starve the Wildlife Division to force consolidation of law enforcement. Opposition to the fee increase provides fuel to that belief. 

     Look at the overwhelming support on these issues from the conservation organizations across the state; Sportsmen’s Alliance, the Nature Conservancy (AEP). Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio Conservation Federation, The Buckeye Trail Association (AEP), League of Ohio Sportsmen, Chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Ohio State Trappers Association, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, etc., the list goes on and on. These groups and their members, would be ecstatic to have your front and center leadership on these issues. It’s not too late to address these issues. 

     I assure you this will be received in an overwhelming positive light.

Your friend in conservation,

Michael J. Budzik

Monday, June 12, 2017

National Take Your Dog To Work Day - No, Seriously

I am passing this one on as-is; no point in spoiling the theme.
And I must confess that I had taken one of my Labrador retrievers – Miss Daisy (as gentle a soul as one can find) - into the newsroom a couple of times. On Saturdays though.

Miss Daisy enjoyed it, especially the attention from the weekend reporter.
Fortunately Miss Daisy was always very well behaved and never barked, let alone put a stain on the carpet of The News-Herald’s newsroom floor. Though in hindsight, a pee stain or two would have improved on the carpet’s rather hideously dull coloration.
Be that as it may, here’s the release:

Take Your Dog to Work Day is June 23, but how many offices are actually dog-friendly?

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance—the #1 customer-rated provider of health insurance for dogs and cats—conducted a survey to find out. Here are 5 interesting tidbits about Fido at the office:

*  Is your workplace dog-friendly?  35% Yes; 65% No

* Do you take your dog to work?   78% Yes; Of those who do, 45% take them every day

 What are the top benefits for pups?   81% Quality time with their pet parents; 51% Attention from coworkers

 What’s the downside?   67% Barking; 33% “Accidents” on the carpet; 20% Distraction

What are the top “pet perks” you wish your employer would offer? Pet insurance benefits: 71%; Pawternity leave (time off when you adopt a new pup): 64%;    A daily dog-time break: 57%
Is your workplace dog-friendly?
A lucky 35% of survey respondents are able bring their dogs to work, but the majority (65%) cannot. Some workplaces are simply not appropriate for pups; if you work in a restaurant or healthcare-related field, pups are probably not welcome, and dogs could pose a risk or be hurt in a hazardous setting such as construction.
For those of you who have dog-friendly workplaces, how many of you take your dog to work?

A whopping 78% of respondents with dog-friendly workplaces bring their pups with them at least some of the time; of those, 45% say they take their canine companion to work with them every day.

 While we may get a case of the Mondays, dogs actually like going to work!
So what’s in it for the pups? Eighty-one percent of respondents report their pups enjoy having quality time with their favorite humans, and 51% say it’s all that attention from coworkers.  

And what’s the downside?
Having our canine companions at work isn’t always perfect – the challenges run the gamut from “accidents” on the carpet to being a distraction. Sixty-seven percent of pet parents say that making sure dogs don’t bark at inopportune moments is their biggest hurdle with bringing a dog to work.

 What’s on your pet-workplace wish list?
 All of it! While most pet parents wish their employer offered pet insurance benefits, “Pawternity” leave ranked very high as well. Designated doggy potty stations (including baggies) and a daily dog break were highly rated, and the final three – an off-leash dog area, free treats, and extra supplies – were equally important to responders:

* Pet insurance benefits: 71%
* "Pawternity leave" (time off when you adopt a new pup): 64%
* A designated doggy potty station, complete with poop bags: 57%
* A daily dog-time break: 57%
* An off-leash dog area: 43%
* Free treats: 43%
* Extra supplies (like bowls, leashes, etc.) in case I forget mine: 43%

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, June 9, 2017

Confusion reigns regarding $21 million RR trestle rebuild project accross Grand River

For steelheaders such as Bob Ashley of Mentor the heavy-duty work of tearing down one and the building of another railroad trestle across the Grand River in Painesville has been the cause of some considerable heartburn.

Ashley is a serious steelheader who angles for the fish from September through late March. He often utilizes the lower section of the Grand River above and below the 100-year-old Norfolk-Southern railroad trestle. This structure is located just upstream from Ohio Route 84 in Painesville-Painesville Township.

However, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approved $21 million/two-year project to remove the 1,400-foot-long, 100-foot-tall current trestle and replace it with a similar structure has Ashley and other anglers concerned. These anglers are worried that the project’s included-900-foot-long temporary construction approach causeway will impact both steelhead migration and fisherman’s access to one of the Grand River’s best fishing venues.

Additional confusion exists in the minds of many steelheaders – and even some Lake County officials – that the just-started project will include (incorrectly, though) the shutting down of all recreational usage of the stream from Lake Metroparks’ Helen Hazen Wyman Park in Painesville-Concord townships downstream to the agency’s Beaty Landing in Painesville City.

“I guess I’ll have to spend more time on the Chagrin River,” said Ashley.

That won’t be necessary it would seem and based on information provided by Joe Fockler, the site’s project leader with the Great Lakes Construction Company of Hinkley.

Fockler explained that the causeway will feature a series of 25, 72-inch diameter/80-foot-long steel piping serving as culverts, anchored by large rocks and overlaid with more rock. From this causeway the contractor will utilize heavy equipment to remove the old trestle and replace it with a new one.

And during construction should debris wrestle their way against the metal culverts the construction team will remove them, Fockler said.

Presently the trestle sees between 20 and 25 train movements daily with a maximum speed limit of 50 miles per hour.

Fockler said as well that this causeway was designed – and is being built – to withstand the oft-times flood conditions of the Grand River with partial removal of the structure scheduled for winter when such factors are most likely.

Another serious concern among the Grand River’s recreationalists is that the construction project will curtail for two years not only paddle sports usage of the Grand River but also foot traffic for a considerable length of the stream.

That prospect will not be the case, says, Fockler, who states that foot traffic will only be restricted within a 150-foot or more stretch and confined by the immediate construction zone.

“And people will not be able to park along Route 84,” Fockler says of the popular jumping off point for steelheaders as well as smallmouth bass anglers. “The construction right-of-way is not a huge area.”

This being said, another serious question of concern still exists on the restriction by paddle-sports users of the stream. Here the position of Great Lakes Construction, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Painesville City, and Lake Metroparks becomes a bit more of muddied waters.

It is the intent of the contractor, says Fockler, to erect signage along the Grand River from Lake Metroparks’ Mason’s Landing – a paddle sports’ vessel launch site - in Leroy-Perry townships to the agency’s Beaty Landing. This signage will feature various forms of the general topic that the stream will be closed to watercraft traffic only between those two points.

Signage also will be posted further upstream so that river travelers will have the ability to take out at Mason’s Landing, Fockler says.

Meanwhile, Fockler’s comments do not represent in total what at least some others are saying. Painesville City engineer Leanne Exum issued a release on May 23rd which reads:

“The Grand River will be closed to all recreational users starting on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 until December of 2017. 


“The causeway will be removed at the end of the year and reconstructed in the Spring of 2018; at which time, the river would be closed to recreational users thru December of 2018. 


“The Grand River will be closed for recreational use from Helen Hazen Wyman Park,

off SR 86, to Beaty's Landing located off of SR 84 (East Walnut Street).”


Thus the signage is in some respects at the heart of the issue. Fockler’s company says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has played a key role in the watercraft restrictions and signage wording, a point agreed to by Exum.


Yet the Natural Resources Department contends that its involvement is much less formal.

“The ODNR has played no role in the project or the potential closing of the river. We have not approved or provided signs, given permission for the river to be closed, or even been asked for that permission,” said Natural Resources spokesman Matt Eiselstein.  

“My understanding is that the United States Army Corps of Engineers indicated that the railroad has indicated to them that they possess the authority to close the river and ODNR has asked for the document that provided them this authority. To date, proof of that authority has not been provided.”

Regardless, Fockler says too that the construction’s footprint will almost certainly not impede upstream migration of steelhead or other fishes; a matter that typically involves the Corps whenever a stream project is likely to feature migratory fish movement.

“This has all been approved by the Corps,” Fockler said. “We’re just doing what the Corps has approved.”

For its part the Corps’ Buffalo District said it signed off on the project several months ago, thereby granting a two-year permit in order for Great Lakes Construction to conduct its work.

“We had reviewed the project to ensure that environmental impacts would be minimal,” said Corps’ Buffalo District spokesman Dr. Michael Izard-Carroll.

Izard-Carroll did note also that the agency “reserves the right” to make site inspections in order to make certain that the project’s plans “are being executed properly.”

Likewise, Izard-Carroll says that the public has the right to request Corps intervention should the former believe that the project is failing to live up to the permit’s terms. That can be done electronically via the Buffalo District’s web site, Izard-Carroll said.

In addition, says Fockler, that when the old trestle is removed and a new one installed, the structure will actually prove beneficial to the stream’s flow and habitat.

For one thing, Fockler says, the new trestle will feature fewer foundations into the Grand River which means that fewer snags, deadheads and trees will pile up against the trestle during flood events.

“We’re just out here to build a new bridge and to minimize our footprint on the river,” Fockler says. “The new trestle should last another 100 years.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Eight indicted in Cuyahoga County (Ohio) for allegedly running deer-poaching ring

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife announce the indictment of eight individuals who are accused of being part of an alleged whitetail deer-poaching enterprise.

The state alleges that hundreds of animals were illegally killed, resulting in nearly 3,000 pounds of venison, and allegedly netting of thousands of dollars in profit.

A two-year investigation by the Wildlife Division revealed that alleged ringleader John Zayac, 70, of Broadview Heights, allegedly worked with seven others to allegedly intentionally falsify information to the state of Ohio regarding the number of deer they allegedly bagged as required by law. 

Co-defendants include Zayac’s wife Rebecca Gregerson, 60; Terrance Ankrom, 52, and his wife Tina, 42, of Kent; John Stofan, 52, of North Royalton; John Frost, 78, of Brecksville; Todd Neczeporenko, 46, of Jefferson; and Craig Steed, 38, of Newton Falls. 

The alleged illegal hunting was conducted in Brecksville, North Royalton, and Broadview Heights, Richfield, and allegedly processed in Ashtabula County.

 “The Ohio Department of Natural Resources should be commended for their diligence,” said

O’Malley. “This investigation took time and patience to show that these individuals were (allegedly) illegally and egregiously stealing natural resources from our great state.”

The investigation led the Wildlife Division to believe that Zayac allegedly organized “deer drives” and allegedly allowed the co-defendants to bring the poached deer to his property to be skinned and dressed for processing.

Zayac allegedly then made arrangements with processors and decided upon the form in which the meat would be processed. The large quantities of meat were allegedly produced without the proper tags, rendering it unlawful to sell.

To produce more meat, the defendants allegedly would kill multiple bucks each season and report them as does, the Wildlife Division charges.

Zayac and his wife Rebecca Gregerson, allegedly falsified online records regarding the number of deer they bagged, says the Wildlife Division.

The Ankroms are accused of illegally overbagged deer and falsified their hunting activities, as well as the activities of their son-in-law Steed’s tags and the tags of Terrence’s father-in-law.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Ohio's hunting and fishing license sales dampened by wet spring

The hard rains in April and in May appear to have soften the sales of both Ohio fishing and hunting licenses.

Based on to-date data supplied by the Ohio Division of Wildlife via its several-year-old computer-based license-issuing system, 378,940 resident fishing licenses were issued as of May 30th. That figure is a 5.71 percent decline from the 401,907 similar licenses issued figure for the same period in 2016, the data shows. Translated this drop amounts to a revenue slump of $436,373; or $7.64 million generated thus far verses the $7.2 million generated for the same time frame in 2016.

Among other significant angling licenses taking a thus far to-date hit include non-resident annual fishing (off 4.48 percent); three-day fishing (off 8 percent); and one-day non-resident (off 15.89 percent).

However, showing some increases are reduced-cost resident angler (up 2.23 percent); one-day resident (up 24.24 percent) and one-day Lake Erie charter fishing/non-resident (up 3.56 percent).

Even so, the total to-day revenue decline for the Wildlife Fund as it relates to sales hiccups amounts to around $500,000.

Not to worry, however, says Wildlife Division assistant chief Scott Hale, who did admit that the nearly six-percent decline in to-date resident fishing license sales caught him a little by surprise; but only by a little.

“We’ve seen a lot of nasty weather on Lake Erie this spring and though the fishing’s been good when anglers can get out, that’s been spotty; hit or miss,” Hale said. “And Lake Erie fishing does drive fishing license sales.”

Hale says too that the Wildlife Division frequently sees a bump in fishing license sales as the calendar tips over from near the Memorial Day holiday period and toward early summer but “we just have not seen that happen yet.”

And though hunting season for practically anything is still a good ways off, some resident Ohioans and a handful of non-residents do buy their general licenses early. Just not as many to-date sales as what was experienced for the same period in 2016.

The to-date resident general hunting license sales figure stands at 50,970 verses 53,843 for the same period in 2016. That drop accounts for a to-date decline in revenue of nearly $55,000. Discounting special tags for deer, turkey and waterfowl the to-date revenue dip amounts to $36,064. Again, not a problem, says Hale.

“We plan for these ups and downs,” Hale says.

Other revenue stream and license sales ebbs and flows appear on the to-date ledger as well. Not terribly surprising was good end-of-season spring turkey tag sales, Hale said, with very nearly identical resident issuances: 41,876 in 2016 and 41,851 this year – a statistically insignificant 0.06 decline.

Moreover, non-resident turkey tag sales demonstrated an actual increase: From 3,975 permits sold to this segment of hunters in 2016 to 4,311 this year, or an 8.45 percent increase.

Down significantly, though, are sales of both annual and one-day shooting range permits; these sales slips required for anyone utilizing one of several full-service Wildlife Division shooting ranges. Here, the to-date number of annual shooting range permits sold in 2016 was 6,745 while the to-date corresponding 2017 figure was 5,577. That is a drop of 17.32 percent.

A nearly identical fall of 17.82 percent has also struck sales of one-day shooting range permits. Coupled together and the to-date revenue slippage for range permit sales decline totals $35,947.

However, Hale explains that in all probability the decline in both annual and daily shooting range permit sales is attributable to the on-going closure and rehabilitation work being performed at the Wildlife Division’s Delaware Wildlife Area shooting range complex.

“This range is located close to the Columbus area and is very popular with shooters,” Hale said.

Perhaps less explainable is the nasty drop in the number of direct financial donations made to the Wildlife Division’s four such accounting cubicles: donations for the agency’s Diversity and Endangered Species Fund; its Habitat Fund; Wildlife Fund; and one additional Wildlife Fund account. In all donations to these accounts are off a staggering nearly 51 percent for a to-date income loss of $10,938 ($20,568 to-date 2016, and $9,630 to date this year).

Lastly, Hale says that sales of hunting and fishing license, special tags and such by people utilizing on-line services including computers, tablets, and smart phones is now running about 25 percent.
“This method purchasing licenses and permits has certainly grown from the earlier years of online sales, so they are definitely catching on,” Hale says

Friday, June 2, 2017

Huge Ohio deer-poaching effort nets five adults, 20 juveniles

This one doesn’t even need embellishment from me. The release from the Ohio Division of Wildlife pretty much says it all.

ATHENS, OH – Twenty-five individuals, including 20 juveniles, were recently convicted of 161 hunting-related charges in the Muskingum County Court and the Muskingum County Common Pleas Court Juvenile Division, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

 Over a two-year period, ODNR Division of Wildlife officers received numerous complaints about white-tailed deer being illegally shot near Philo in Muskingum County.

During a night project in 2014, a vehicle was observed spotlighting deer in a hay field. When state wildlife officers approached the vehicle, it fled the scene at a high rate of speed. Officers pursued the vehicle until it was deemed unsafe to continue.

The State Highway Patrol provided a lead in December 2015 when State Troopers pulled over an adult and four juveniles and discovered three dead deer in the vehicle. State wildlife officers and investigators followed up with the individuals and were able to determine that one of the juveniles had been a passenger in the vehicle that had fled the year before.

Officers were also able to identify additional suspects and other violations. More suspects were identified through subsequent contacts and additional violation reports. The investigation eventually resulted in 25 individuals being issued summonses for more than 200 counts of wildlife violations.
The defendants were found guilty on 161 of those counts and ordered to pay $1,675 in fines and $3,991 in court costs, and complete a combined 440 hours of community service. Several items seized during the investigation were forfeited to the ODNR Division of Wildlife, including firearms, deer parts, and ginseng.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife encourages anyone observing or suspecting that wildlife violations are occurring to report illegal activity by calling the Turn-In-A-Poacher (TIP) hotline toll free at 1-800-POACHER (762-2437) or submitting information online at All information received by the TIP program will remain confidential.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Boating-relate fatalties ticked upward in 2016

In its annual review of recreational boating accidents and fatalities the U.S. Coast Guard is reporting a jump in the numbers.

Nationally last year, reports the Coast Guard, 701 people died in recreational boating mishaps. That is a 12-percent increase from the number reported in 2015, the Coast Guard says.

Too, in the past two decades the year with the most boating-related fatalities nationally was 1997 which recorded 821 such deaths. The least was in 2013 with 560 such deaths.

In Ohio, the Ohio Division of Parks and Watercraft says the state saw 12 recreational boating deaths last year, a drop of one victim from 2015’s report of 13 such fatalities. To date this year the Parks and Watercraft Division is reporting two fatalities, each from a hand-powered platform such as canoes and kayaks.

Also, since at least 2014 all of Ohio’s boating-related deaths were males. Likewise, since 2005 Ohio has experienced 163 recreational boating-related fatalities of which only 10 were female.

As to where in 2015 boating-related deaths occurred in Ohio, inland lakes saw five fatalities, three in rivers, three in Lake Erie and one in a “pond.” For 2016, the numbers were seven, one, four, and zero, respectively.

The most recent high water mark for boating-related fatalities in Ohio was in 2014 when the Parks and Watercraft Division reported 22 deaths.  And since 2005 only one year has seen boating-related fatalities dip into single digits; that year being 2009 with nine fatalities.

Also, the Parks and Recreation Division says that for 2016 the accumulative cost of vessel damage caused by boating-related accidents amounted to $562,150 while another $178,417 was associated with other property damage.

Adding fuel to the fire that recreational boating accidents and fatalities are arguably preventable in most cases the Coast Guard report found that in 2016 fully 80 percent of the fatalities were the result of drowning. And of this figure, 83 percent of the victims were not wearing Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

“In regards to the primary contributing factors of boating accidents, six of the top 10 are directly related to the behavior or actions of the operator,” said also Mike Baron, the recreational boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard’s Ninth Coast Guard District headquarters in Cleveland.

 Baron said that operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed and machinery failure rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Meanwhile, some 73 percent of the fatalities showed that vessel’s operator did not have any formal safe-boating instruction, the Coast Guard’s report says.

“It’s the operator’s responsibility to always practice good risk management and provide for the safety of passengers and safety of fellow boaters,” Baron said.

The Top Five Continental U.S. states with reported boating-related fatalities in 2016 – based on the Coast Guard’s report – were Florida – 59; Texas – 48; California – 43; Michigan – 38; and Louisiana - 23.

The Top Five Continental U.S. states with the fewest number of boating-related fatalities in 2016 were: Vermont, North Dakota and Delaware with just one each; and Rhode Island and the District of Columbia with no such fatalities each.

As for how the various Great Lakes states fared in terms of boating-related fatalities and injuries in 2016, Baron said that the numbers for the Ninth District included: Illinois had 74 reported boating accidents with nine fatalities and 40 injured people; Indiana had 40 reported boating accidents with seven fatalities and 27 injured people; Michigan had 125 reported boating accidents with 38 fatalities and 65 injured people; Minnesota had 96 reported boating accidents with 17 fatalities and 72 injured people; New York had 188 reported boating accidents with 22 fatalities and 149 injured people; Ohio had 113 reported boating accidents with 12 fatalities and 55 injured people; Pennsylvania had 55 reported boating accidents with 11 fatalities and 33 injured people; Wisconsin had 103 boating accidents with 20 fatalities and 72 injured people.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn