OH BHA Chapter Leader Tony Ruffing heads to D.C.
While we're looking forward to our big summer party, Muster in the Marsh, we're also keeping a close eye on developments in Columbus. Our legislature has been busy with mixed results, and we've been keeping a close eye in particular on the budgeting process as embodied in state house bill 33. It's been an interesting, frustrating process to watch, and Ohio BHA members have provided important feedback both through BHA action alerts, and via in-person testimony by board members. Some notable details:
- At some point in the amendment process in the state house, a number of provisions removing authority from wildlife officers were added. Additionally, a provision dictating the start of the deer gun season was added. This is an unprecedented power grab, and an attempt to further degrade the ability of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to effectively manage our wildlife. It is notable that a concerted effort on the part of BHA members, various other conservation organizations, and other hunters and anglers killed these provisions. In addition to the grassroots effort, board member Tony Ruffing delivered powerful written testimony in opposition to these changes. The bill that the house passed included none of these provisions. Our voice can be powerful, and this was a clear win for hunters and anglers in Ohio!
- State house bill 33 has been passed to the senate, and while the embarrassing provisions described above were eliminated, we are still fighting a number of cuts in the budget for important conservation programs. Approximately $2.5 million was removed from the Conservation and Habitat Protection program, and funding was wiped out for Project Wild, a critical educational program for K-12 students that focuses on engagement with the outdoors. Ohio chapter board members Tony Ruffing and Nathan Voris both testified before state senate committees (Senate Finance and Agriculture and Natural Resources respectively) on these topics, and we continue to apply pressure to restore funding to these important conservation programs. Our efforts continue through an active action alert, and we hope to see changes in the coming weeks.
In addition to providing his powerful voice and presence to the legislature in Columbus with regard to the budget bill, board member Tony Ruffing went to Washington DC representing Ohio BHA and Ohio Conservation Federation, meeting with Ohio senators and advocating for the Farm Bill. Although he has stepped down as board chair in Ohio, Tony has remained a powerful advocate for our natural places and all Ohioan hunters and anglers owe him a debt of gratitude!
We're all about the party, are excited about the upcoming Muster in the Marsh, but we recognize that we party for a purpose. A kickass good time is a pleasant side effect, but our policy advocacy on a state, regional, and national level provides lasting results. We enjoy these benefits long after the party has passed, and we're all saying "You should have been there!!!"