On August 9, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced that it signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with American Electric Power (AEP) to begin negotiating for the purchase of a large part of AEP’s ReCreation Land property in southeastern Ohio.
Comprised of approximately 58,800 acres of Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum, and Noble counties, AEP’s ReCreation Land has been open to public hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor recreational uses for decades. Much of the area is reclaimed surface-mined coal land, and the property has more than 600 lakes and ponds, over 350 campsites, and forty miles of trails.
“The AEP ReCreation Lands have been used by the public for years, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ acquisition of this resource is a significant achievement for maintaining access for Ohio’s sportsmen and women,” said Senator Joe Uecker, Co-Chair of the Ohio Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.
AEP has been trying to divest of ReCreation Land for years, and state acquisition of ReCreation Land has long been a priority for many sportsmen’s groups in Ohio. Maintaining access for sportsmen and women is critical for hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation, especially in a state that ranks 43rd in the nation in terms of public land available for outdoor recreation.
“The Ohio Conservation Federation continues to support the Division of Wildlife and Ohio DNR in acquiring the ReCreation Land area from American Electric Power Company. We believe this would be great utilization of the hunting and fishing license fees and federal excise taxes paid by our membership. These acres are very important as public land to people in Ohio who hunt, fish and trap. We look toward to hearing further details regarding the amount of acreage, timing and source of funding for the purchase.” Matt Misicka, President of the Ohio Conservation Federation.
Although the details of the phased acquisition have not been finalized, a portion of the funding for the purchase will likely be supported by Pittman-Robertson funds. Public land purchases, wildlife habitat improvements, and many other fish and wildlife management programs are funded through the American System of Conservation Funding.
Ohio’s 1.56 million sportsmen and women support more than 46,800 jobs in the state and contribute more than $4.3 billion to the state’s economy.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?