Last update: December 19, 2004 at 11:18 AM
Dennis Anderson: Support strong for wetland management rally
Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune
December 19, 2004 ANDY1219
Last week I wrote of the dismal state of wetlands and wetland wildlife, particularly ducks, in Minnesota, and challenged the state's 120,000 duck hunters to rally at the Capitol in support of these important facets of the state's culture and natural history.
Hundreds of readers responded, and a sample of letters I received is published here.
Many conversations have been held in recent days, with few decisions made. But this much is certain: A rally and/or march of duck hunters, birders and other conservationists will occur sometime in coming months at the state Capitol.
How many people will attend depends on various factors. But certainly, I think, thousands will rally -- and perhaps many, many thousands.
Here are developments/con-siderations/thoughts to ponder- with more coming in the weeks ahead:
• The rally will be held between mid-February and early April. A date favored by some is the first Saturday in April, while the Northwest Sportshow is running in Minneapolis.
• Bud Grant has agreed to help lead the rally. KFAN Radio and other media outlets statewide have volunteered their services.
• No one believes Minnesota's landscape woes can be reversed overnight. But immediate changes in the way ducks are managed in the state are necessary and can be made, providing hope for an improved environment. Plans on how to do this will unfold in coming weeks.
• Birders and other conservation-ists/environmentalists are equally disturbed at the loss of songbirds and songbird habitat. Many have said they will join the rally. The reason: Any recovery/refurbishment of Minnesota water and land will benefit everyone in the state.
• Among readers weighing in quietly last week on the rally idea were DNR employees who conceded the agency is incapable (though not necessarily for reasons of their making) of taking the actions necessary to save ducks in Minnesota -- and that change will only come from outside the agency. Still, the DNR is reportedly hurrying together a new duck-recovery plan in an attempt to get ahead of what they view as an uprising.
• Hunters from other Mississippi Flyway states also have said they will attend. Many have posted and/or linked my original column to www.waterfowler.com and www.ducks.org, among other Web sites.
• A consensus is building among some hunters, among them Grant, that serious consideration should be given to closing the Minnesota duck season for at least a year. Not necessarily because hunting is hurting ducks (though recent seasons have been too long and limits too high), but because holding a duck-less season benefits no one except the DNR and manufacturers and sellers of hunting gear. And until those entities get on board what might be called a duck-management-revolution-in-the-making, there's little reason to benefit them alone by holding a season.
• Send your thoughts on this to a new e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, this column and last week's column can be found at www.startribune.com/anderson, along with past coverage, links to related Web sites, a discussion for readers, and ongoing updates on this issue.
A strong response: Sampling of reader reactions to the Dec. 12 column
December 19, 2004 LETTERS1219
AND WE'LL BRING FRIENDS ...
That would be quite a sight: thousands of duck hunters clad in camo blowing duck calls on the Capitol steps. It shouldn't be only duck hunters. Lack of quality wetlands affect every living, breathing soul in the state! Someone needs to start the ball rolling, and waterfowlers are as good a choice as any. I'll be there and my 16-year-old son will be right beside me. I've already spent a good amount of my days in the blind; it is the boy who has nearly a lifetime of opportunity to lose.
-- Don Anderson, 46, Lakeville
I agree that something needs to be done before it's too late. This past season was the worst I have ever experienced. Our camp near Mahnomen has historically been a diver reproduction area. Water is high, poor quality, and there is no feed in either lake. Shrimp have disappeared along with the ducks, to be replaced with minnows. The only person I can think of to lead a campaign to gain attention would be Bud Grant. I'd show up as would my friends.
-- Peter Rennebohm, 61, Orono
COUNT ON BIRDERS
I am not a hunter, but I support people's right to do so. I am a hard-core bird watcher and birders and hunters have something in common--we want more ducks. We need to find a way to get birders more involved to help increase the numbers at protests and to open their pocket books to give some of the money that hunters have so generously given to conservation over the years.
-- Sharon Stiteler, 30, Minneapolis
Audubon, like many organizations and individuals, has been fighting for many years to protect wetlands and other habitats. You rightly point out that we are still losing the battle, and your call to arms (or rally, I guess) is timely.
I do not think we are the right group to take the lead in organizing the rally you propose, but we would join this effort and encourage our members and other birders to be a part. My hope is that hunters and non-hunters would see that we value the same habitat, cherish the birds that rely on that habitat, and work together to protect it.
-- Mark Martell, 50, Roseville, Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Minnesota
SUPPORT FROM ALL SIDES
I no longer hunt ducks; not as a gesture to waterfowl conservation but because witnessing the death of the great migration has become too personally sad and too profoundly depressing. Bringing back the spectacle of the migration is important to me, even if I never shoot another northern mallard.
What to do: The rift between "hunter conservationists" and "environmentalists" must be bridged. The critical mass of political power necessary for the gigantic endeavor of rebuilding Minnesota's broken landscapes will never be realized while these natural allies view each other as the enemy.
In fact, the real enemies of hunters, bird watchers and tree huggers alike -- and I proudly claim to embody all three -- are large agri-business, chemical/petroleum companies, giant food corporations and the political machine of leeches that sucks on them all.
The alliance of greedy corporations and self-serving politicians benefits handsomely when "conservationist" and "environmentalist" focus on fighting each other. For the sake of the prairie, the waterfowl and the spectacle of the migration this counter productive bickering must end. The "gathering" in St. Paul that you suggest can't be effective without first organizing the natural coalitions that will provide political critical mass.
-- Greg Larson, 52, Shorewood
The Executive Committee of the Minnesota Division of the Ikes reviewed your "Empty Skies" story and call for action during a conference call. We are organizing via our Wetlands Initiative to be the group that brings the various factions together in an effort to accomplish specific goals pertaining to wetlands and waterfowl. We believe that your plea to waterfowlers statewide meshes well with these goals.
The Ikes are equally saddened by the current lack of initiative to reverse the downward trend of statewide waterfowl numbers and the unrelenting degradation of the habitat that supports them. We agree that the issue needs to be forced to the forefront such that our policymakers take heed.
-- Bill Henke, 51, Detroit Lakes, Ikes Minnesota Division President
COUNT US IN
As a 74-year-old duck hunter, I am anxious to help in any way I can to ensure a healthy duck population. Even though it is physically difficult to get into a duck boat, I want to help. Any suggestions of what I can do personally will be appreciated, including a "march" in St. Paul.
-- Bob Speckhals, 74, Faribault
I am 38, and this is the first year since my dad came and got me out of second-grade class (when the season opened on a Wednesday) that I have not hunted ducks. I hunt hard and with passion, but I had enough of driving three hours out west, loading the boat up with 120 blocks, motor, etc., trudging through the muck only to be rewarded with spotting maybe a flock flying high and south. I have seen phenomenal hunting go sour, so to satisfy my need to be outdoors I bought an English Setter and will begin honing my upland skills.
I am throwing my hat into the ring for whatever purpose -- calling, organizing, etc. -- just let me know what I can do and I will do it.
-- Matthew Simonet, 38, Richfield
I'm 18 and my family and I have been avid duck hunters since I can remember. I have noticed a change, and my dad has too, and that change has been for the worse. If and when this rally comes up, I'll be there. So will my dad and mom, because duck hunting is the world to me.
-- Riley Moe, 18, Columbia Heights
I will be there and will bring many more along. It will be a long hard crusade and maybe, just maybe, my son and grandson will be able to accompany me on a duck hunt where we actually may need to use all those shells we've been lugging around. (Four times this past season we didn't fire a shot.) I think it's time to re-direct all the fundraising monies to this very critical issue.
-- Steve Zimmerman, 58, Elk River
COUNT ME OUT
If duck hunters march on St. Paul and ask for waterfowl lakes to be restored there will be as many or more people marching to ask that our waterfowl lakes continue to remain damed and aerated to maintain the fish populations, placed there by the DNR for anglers. More big business.
No, I am afraid a march on St. Paul will be of no value unless it is a march of people who are concerned with the environment and not just hunting or fishing. The hunting and fishing factions have had their go at it and have failed miserably. Worse -- they do not even recognize their failure.
Unless people are willing to march on St. Paul and tell their legislators that they want our waterfowl lakes returned to their natural state -- without dams -- and left alone, there will be no change (even in 150 years).
At 73, I will not be marching on St. Paul. At this stage I am sick to death of watching the fiasco unfold and content in the knowledge that we will get exactly what we deserve.
-- LeRoy K. Peterson, 73, Heron Lake
IT'S A START
I wish I could offer ideas, but waterfowl management is broken and the managers don't know it. They are defensive, and most are too young to remember when we had ducks. Thus, they believe that we "had ducks" in the 90's, when the truth is, it was a shadow of the 70's and that was less than the 50's.
So these "managers" enact facades, like "Adaptive Harvest Management," that carries with it, six bird limits. Ideas? For them it must start with accepting reality.
-- Tony Dean, 64, Mandan, N.D.
We hunt near Appleton, and none of the five of us shot a duck in Minnesota this year. Worst year ever for waterfowl. We are here to support your efforts in any way we can to at least give us a chance to bring back the ducks instead of doing nothing.
-- Nick Sovell, 57, Elko
We need a plan. We need to act. Let this thing grow like Eurasian milfoil with every meeting until it is dropped on the steps of the Capitol in a big smelly pile of political wrong that must be allotted action and cash.
• Exert pressure on the governor to force the breakup of the DNR into a recreational sports division and a natural resources division. This transparency will allow people to actually see the lack of funding given to those items buried in the bureaucratic mass of the DNR.
• Push legislation that requires non-resident sportsmen to make contributions to their own states sporting resources when they purchase out-of-state licenses.
• Increase the license fees and directly apply it to habitat restoration and creation.
-- Steve Schlotthauer, 37, Minneapolis
GET THEIR ATTENTION
In recent years I have spent most of my hunting days on public land in North or South Dakota. There is a major sinking feeling in my stomach when I cross back into Minnesota knowing that the majority of the season's fun, opportunities, and birds are in my rear view mirror. I think a specific agenda is appropriate -- what are we rallying for? I believe something more than "for the ducks" is in order. At a minimum the dedicated sales tax? Also replacing or enhancing the DNR with the citizen board as you have described? A habitat plan? Stay away from putting farming practices/incentives on the agenda?
-- Justin Ronning, 28, Golden Valley