Governor’s hunting and fishing expert resigns in dispute over fees
SANDUSKY — Mike Budzik, Gov. John Kasich’s advisor on fishing and hunting issues, has publicly resigned, complaining that the governor is no longer paying attention to him or the concerns of Ohio’s sportsmen.
Budzik wrote in his resignation letter that while Kasich used to listen, he could not get in touch with the governor in two attempts in recent months.
“I didn’t even get a response. I also had no meaningful discussions with the Department on these issues,” Budzik wrote, referring to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Budzik’s public departure in his June 10 letter has helped publicize a bitter dispute between Budzik and Ohio conservation groups, which favor raising fishing and hunting license fees to provide more money for the Division of Wildlife, and the ODNR leadership, which contends that the fee hikes are not needed.
The Ohio House and Senate will resolve the dispute, presumably with input from Kasich, who has veto power over financial items. A decision on the issue is coming soon, as the Ohio General Assembly must approve a new state budget by July 1.
Conservation groups have been pressing for a hike in hunting and fishing fees, contending that the Ohio Division of Wildlife is being starved for resources.
John Hageman, the Sandusky Register’s outdoors columnist, wrote on June 4 that officers of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association strongly support an increase in fishing license fees.
“They are passionate about protecting the future of their livelihood and the currently healthy fishery — and are concerned about the number of fishing violations that are taking place,” Hageman wrote.
“Because of funding shortages, there is no wildlife officer cadet class planned, even though the Lake Erie law enforcement force is down two officers and several of Ohio’s counties currently are without a wildlife officer (game warden),” he wrote.
“It troubles the LECBA that there are also unfilled fish biologist positions in the Lake Erie Fisheries research unit,” he wrote.
More than 30 conservation groups and environmental groups support modest increases in the fees, Hageman wrote.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Emmalee Kalmbach, was asked to comment on Budzik’s letter.
“The governor appreciates his service and wishes him well,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources also provided a brief statement.
“Mike Budzik has been an advocate for Ohio wildlife conservation, and Director Zehringer appreciates his service,” said Bethany McCorkle.
Budzik is a former chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. He spoke on behalf of Donald Trump last September when representatives of the Trump and Clinton campaigns were asked to speak at the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition conference held at Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point.
Budzik wrote that he also is concerned about reported plans to merge Division of Wildlife officers into the rest of the ODNR and also asked for Kasich’s support in acquiring AEP land in southeast Ohio for the use of sportsmen.
Originally posted by Tom Jackson, Staff Reporter of the Sandusky Register, on 6/16/2017 4:14 PM. Reach reporter Tom Jackson at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jacksontom.
Photo: Register file photo/JASON WERLING