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. FrischkornJFrischk@Ameritech.net