As we begin a new year, there are some legitimate concerns about wildlife conservation in this country.
The number of conservationists keeps dwindling and has now for a few decades. Conservation and outdoor recreation go hand-in-hand. But challenges are mounting as the number of conservation stewards decreases.
It used to be a well-known fact that hunters, anglers, shooting sports and boating enthusiasts have been major supporters of conservation work via license and permit fees as well as excise taxes paid on their equipment. Those taxes are returned to state wildlife agencies through the Pittman-Roberson and Dingell-Johnson acts.
Trying to maintain or increase participation is essential since participant numbers today are making it more difficult to achieve conservation missions. Simply pointing out what outdoor recreation means to a state’s economy is not enough.
According to the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), excise tax deposits made by the partner industries represent about half of the state fish and wildlife agencies’ annual budget. This source of annual funding for state fish and wildlife agencies is not only reliable, but it also is a unique partnership between the agencies and the hunting, shooting sports, angling, and boating industries.
WMI numbers indicate fishing is holding its own and the sport fish restoration fund is barely holding its own, but the wildlife restoration account is losing more than $50 million - something that cannot keep happening if wildlife agencies hope to continue their conservation programs.
Numbers for both funds were provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which obtained them directly from the two collection agencies - the Internal Revenue Service and the Tax and Trade Bureau.
In the fish restoration fund, there was a 2 percent increase between fiscal year (FY) 2018 and 2019. The totals were $659,760,924 in FY 2019 compared to $649,357,892 in FY 2018,
Broken down, these figures included: $315,747,000 in FY 2019 compared to $312,747,000 in FY 2018 in motorboat fuel tax, $123,007,000 in small engine fuel tax in both fiscal years, $23,168,942 in FY 2019 compared to $24,175,214 in FY 2018 on interest, $62,585,622 in FY 2019 compared to $63,575,908 in FY 2018 on customs duties, $105,251,517 in FY 2019 compared to $93,269,516 in FY 2018 on fishing equipment, $5,975,069 in FY 2019 compared to $5,924,053 on electronic boat motors, $1,923,066 in FY 2019 compared to $1,693,721 in FY 2018 fishing tackle boxes and $22,102, 708 in FY 2019 compared to $24,965,712 in FY 2018 on fishing rods and reels.
In the wildlife restoration account, there was a 9 percent decrease between fiscal year (FY) 2018 and 2019 and a decrease in 4 out of 5 product categories. The totals were $614,282,525 in FY 2019 compared to $672,834,498 in FY 2018.
Broken down, these figures included: $190,292,572 in FY 2019 compared to $201,966,531 in FY 2018 on pistols and revolvers, $201,966,531 in small engine fuel tax in both fiscal years, $190,240,227 in FY 2019 compared to $205,227,233 in FY 2018 on firearms, $185,712,788 in FY 2019 compared to $217,575,786 in FY 2018 on shells and cartridges, $39,710,877 in FY 2019 compared to $38,308,066 in FY 2018 on archery equipment, $9,786,862 in FY 2019 compared to $8,326,061 on arrow shafts.
The WMI stated, “It is extremely important that we do all we can to generate more hunters and anglers and to make sure that the excise taxes are being applied fairly across the industries and being collected effectively.”
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During Ohio’s various firearms seasons, good weather helped an increase in deer harvest over the prior year. Some inclement weather during the first day of the annual muzzleloader season, help drop harvest numbers during the four-day event locally and statewide.
The harvest was down in all 9 Lima area counties. A total of 500 were checked local during the recent season compare to 617 checked during the 2019 season. Deer checked locally with their numbers from last week and those taken in 2019 in parenthesis were: Allen: 49 (56), Auglaize: 45 (61), Hancock: 62 (71), Hardin: 81 (115), Logan: 129 (140), Mercer: 35 (45), Putnam: 21 (27), Shelby: 59 (70) and Van Wert: 19 (32).
Statewide, 10,615 deer were harvested this muzzleloader season compared to 14,168 taken during the 2019 season.
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With long range forecasts calling for high temperatures above freezing through the middle of January, it’s looking more and more likely this may be an ice fishless season.
While there may be no hard water safe for fishing, walleye anglers on Lake Erie are having quite a bit of success in the western basin. According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, limits are being taken as far as Cleveland. The most popular launches have been the Lucas County Ramp, Mazurik, Catawba, Huron, and Lorain.
In the western basin, angler have been trying to find marks, which may come from 18-30 feet. Natural colors have been best as anglers are trolling deep diving crankbaits and stickbaits at 1-1.5 mph They have been experimenting, too. They have used lures 50-150 feet back without any additional weight, or 20-40 feet back to a 2-ounce weight, and another 20-40 feet back to the lure.
Don’t forget, it is now legal to use three rods per angler in the Lake Erie Sportfishing District. The daily bag limit for walleye in Ohio waters of Lake Erie is 6 fish per angler. The minimum size limit for walleye is 15 inches.
As of midweek, the water temperature on Lake Erie off Toledo is 36 degrees, off Cleveland 39 degrees, and off Erie 37 degrees.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL