.......and Reflections

Monday, July 11, 2011

Securing Ohio's Wildlife Heritage One Stamp At A Time

I write about birds and birding and often mention Ohio's Wildlife Areas which I frequent often. A little background might be in order here. Preserves, Wildlife Refuges, Wildlife Management Areas and protected Wilderness Areas are great places to enjoy nature and bird watching. These places provide real natural experiences, inspiration and concern. Americans have benefited from a country that values its natural resources and provides protection and controlled access to wild places within our communities, states and around our nation.

This is possible because of local, state and national policies. These areas are protected for preservation, conservation and often for wildlife consumption. However natural places are protected and for whatever reasons, it is far better than the alternatives that loom over this system year to year and generation to generation. There is pressure to "make better use of these places". There are better technologies that make mineral rights to these places more economically attractive and extraction not only feasible but profitable. American industry is ready and willing to serve American consumer needs even at the expense of what could become the lesser priority. Americans have always and will continue to set our collective values and priorities.......perhaps by mandate or by disinterest.

Ohio is a great State. It is rich in culture and natural heritage. These are tough economic times. Ohio, like many other Great Lakes States, is working through and making changes to recover its vitality and self esteem. Ohio needs jobs, industry, better schools and a vibrant housing market to make Ohio what it historically has been.

Since Ohio was settled it has been largely altered for the sake of progress. We have destroyed 95% of the State's wetlands. We have turned contiguous climax forest into farmland and populated the rest of the state with a workforce for industry. Now we see even more changes necessary as we move into the 21st Century, especially if we are to resume what we started long ago.

All of us need to consider Ohio's natural resources and assess where we are, and what we want these natural resources to be like for future generations. Now, when things look the worst, may be the best time to strike a mandate that will leave our legacy as rich as those before us.

I want to state two things I believe to be true. First, Ohio Department of Natural Resources has done a stellar job for many years, with the Ohio public support to insure that the natural places we have are still protected. Likewise local governments and agencies and private and public trusts have made Ohio's natural heritage more rich and local. Secondly, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife deserves tremendous credit for its management and conservation practices which have benefited all Ohioans. But it is important to understand that this success story was funded almost entirely by Ohio sportsmen through the taxes they pay on hunting and fishing equipment and licencing fees levied by the Division of Wildlife.

Hunting and fishing in Ohio is and has been on a steady decline for years. This is due largely to Ohio's industrialization. And it is no surprise that there is real concern about where natural places and wildlife management will go as younger generations have shown a lack of interest in hunting, fishing, nature activities and other endeavors that were once a cornerstone of our society. This downward trend is evident in ODNR and Ohio Division of Wildlife operations throughout the State and it has gone from concerning to a potentially serious problem.......for Ohio's wildlife heritage.

The Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp: "Investing today in tomorrow's Wild Ohio"

This September I will be attending an annual Wildlife Diversity Partner's Meeting sponsored by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. These meetings are intended to bring together Ohio professionals and citizens to review Division programs and to receive input on these and other initiatives. It is also to rally support to grow the sales and revenues received by the Division of Wildlife for The Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp. This is an important step taken by the Division of Wildlife. The assembeled group represent a growing population of citizens that use the Wildlife Areas managed by the Division. The dilemma is that hunters and fishermen (sportsmen) pay for the Division and other users do not. This disparity creates problems in the existing system.

It makes sense to me. The Ohio Division of Wildlife wants to serve all Ohioans but there is nothing in place to equitably levy each user. To maintain Ohio Wildlife Areas at any acceptable standard will require more revenue.....a lot more revenue. We are assured that the the Division is working on creating funding sources that relieve the pressure on a declining hunting and fishing audience and revenues. It is a very tough row to hoe. If you haven't heard, Ohio is beyond broke and "taxes" is a four-lettered word.

The Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp was introduced with resounding failure in the 1970's. It was resurrected 2 years ago. The sale of stamps was about $20,000 last year. And at $15 a stamp that's about 3,000 stamps sold. I think this is respectable because many of those stamps were sold hand-to-hand in the field, at events and festivals, and with very little promotion to the general public. It is, however, far short of its potential considering the number of birders alone that could be Stamp purchasers.  It is important to know that the Ohio Division of Wildlife has no delusions that the stamp program will float the Division's budget. It is, however, a tangible way for the agency to measure up the size, interest and commitment of non-consumptive wildlife enthusiast support for their programs and management areas.

The Wildlife Legacy Stamp is important. Even $20,000 is significant as the other revenues shrink. If this is the way to measure interest, attendance and commitment of birders who make up a large portion of this non-consumptive use, then the Stamp program can only succeed. This is an opportunity for the non-consumptive community, to educate policy makers that have forever looked for support from sportsmen alone.

I buy the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp because I want my vote to count. Look at me. I'm a potential constituent. Get me involved and together maybe we can work on even more successful projects mutually beneficial to everyone. We might even raise and eyebrow or two from sportsmen, many of which have little interest in acknowledging birders on any account.

I buy a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Annual Migratory Bird Hunting & Conservation Stamp too. I buy it because I appreciate and use our National Wildlife Refuges. It would be a dismal existence without Ohio Wildlife Areas and National Wildlife Refuges. I hope sportsmen will buy an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp for the same reason: voluntary.

I encourage you to cast your vote for the Division of Wildlife and for Ohio's wildlife areas by buying an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp this year and every year. If you do so and help make this Stamp program a continuing success I believe you and I will be setting up an opportunity to set the course for Ohio Wildlife management policies for future generations. Find a way to display your stamp and encourage others to purchase them and display them too.

Many Ohioans have demonstrated that they value natural places and the wildlife that resides within. It is important to preserve Ohio's hunting and fishing heritage. It is equally important to preserve the non-consumptive users passion for these wildlife areas too. It is most important that everyone share in the funding of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. I feel my obligation and contribution is far greater and worthy than the $15 stamp.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife has served Sportsmen and conservation well. They have lived up to a mandate. Change is always difficult but it's time to set a a more inclusive course that will serve all Ohioans in the future. It will take more than a stamp but it always does to grow a legacy. Visit The Ohio Division of Wildlife Website: to find out a whole lot of information about the Division of Wildlife including an on line process to purchase your Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp. Informed decisions are usually good decisions.

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