Athens, OHoh – American Electric Power (AEP) is a long-standing partner in the effort to provide hunters with more access to lands on which they can pursue their pastime. While approximately 90,000 acres of land are currently open to sportsmen and women, not all AEP properties are open to the public, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife.
“The name AEP has become synonymous with public land in southeastern Ohio, but not all the land they own is open for public hunting,” stated District Four Law Enforcement Supervisor Tom Donnelly. “Hunters need to confirm that the AEP property they plan to hunt is open. Hunting without permission on AEP’s private properties has rarely been enforced, but that will change this year.”
Many hunters have been using the private AEP properties for years with no repercussions, but that will no longer be the case. As a result of increased illegal activity on these private properties, AEP’s land management section has asked the Division of Wildlife to begin enforcing hunting without permission. Many of these private properties are in lease agreements with private hunting clubs, or with farmers for agricultural practices.
“AEP requires their lease holders to purchase liability insurance and enter into a written contract,” stated Brian Cox, a forester with AEP’s land management section. “This is a relatively new process, and local sportsmen who have accessed these properties in the past should consider them equivalent to any other piece of privately-owned property.”
None of the public AEP properties are affected by this increase in enforcement, and sportsmen and women who have been legally hunting these areas will not see any change. All persons interested in recreational activities on any public AEP properties must still obtain a free lifetime permit which can be found at various locations including the ODNR Division of Wildlife District 4 Office in Athens, or at www.aep.com/environmental/recreation. The AEP permit is valid at the following areas: The ReCreation Lands, Poston Plant lands, Avondale Wildlife Area, Gavin Wildlife Area, and Conesville Coal Lands. These properties total approximately 90,000 acres and spread through Athens, Coshocton, Gallia, Meigs, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, and Perry Counties. ATV’s are not allowed on the areas, and many of the same rules apply as when hunting on ODNR owned lands.
In Ohio, hunting without permission is a misdemeanor of the third degree on the first offense, with a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Any subsequent hunting without permission offenses would be charged as misdemeanors of the second degree with a maximum penalty of a $750 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
Anyone observing or suspecting that wildlife violations are occurring may report illegal activity by calling the Turn-In-A-Poacher (TIP) hotline toll free at 1-800-POACHER.
The ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at www.ohiodnr.com.