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Dennis Anderson: Full steam ahead for duck rally
Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune
March 6, 2005 ANDY0306

Much has happened since I wrote in December that Minnesotans interested in ducks and the habitat they need to survive should rally at the Capitol to jump-start efforts to preserve these valuable state resources.

As a result, what is being called the Ducks, Wetlands and Clean Water rally is scheduled for April 2 on the Capitol Mall.

Rally start time is 10 a.m., with a program beginning at 1 p.m. and lasting about an hour. The event will end by about 3 p.m.

Headed by coordinator Dave Zentner of Duluth, the rally is supported by a broad coalition of hunting, wildlife, conservation and environmental groups -- perhaps the largest such coalition ever formed in the state.

Leaders of the groups have met the past month on Fridays at REI in Bloomington to plan the rally, and will continue to meet until April 2.

Rally organizers have been buoyed in recent days by the support of Cabela's, which has signed on as the event's lead sponsor. Money contributed by Cabela's will help fund costs associated with the rally, as well as the purchase and/or restoration of a wetland commemorating the rally and the turning point organizers hope it represents in Minnesota conservation history.

Carmichael Lynch Spong, the advertising and public relations firm, also has volunteered its services and is coordinating rally promotional efforts.

Don Young, executive vice president of Ducks Unlimited, headquartered in Memphis, is among national conservation figures from outside Minnesota who will attend the event.

Members of Iowa and Wisconsin waterfowling groups also will be on hand, as will duck hunters from elsewhere in the Central and Mississippi flyways.

The rally follows what many believe was the worst duck-hunting season in Minnesota history. Spring breeding counts of Minnesota mallards show no crisis, according to the Department of Natural Resources. But hunters -- as well as DNR and other waterfowl biologists -- concede Minnesota wetlands and grasslands have been disappearing for generations, and that those that remain are largely degraded.

For this reason -- and because Minnesota's lakes and rivers are under ever-increasing pressure -- the groups that have coalesced behind the April 2 rally see it as an opportunity to perhaps improve state conservation efforts. (A complete list of the group's short-and long-term goals is on the rally website, www.wetlandsrally.org.)

Specifics of rally plans include:

•Up to 30 supporting groups will have exhibits on the mall during the rally, each housed in the small circus-type tents common to county fairs, etc.

•The grounds will open at 10 a.m., with the formal program beginning at 1 p.m. and lasting about an hour.

•A kids' casting pond will be on the grounds, and a duck calling contest will be held.

•Plans for a "Minnesota waterfowling heritage" tent also are being made, highlighting the state's long love affair with ducks and everything associated with them.

•Food will be available on the grounds.

•Rally planners are finalizing the list of people who will speak during the program. "For sure this will include 'average people' from around Minnesota speaking from the heart about the importance to them of ducks, wetlands and clean water," said Zentner.

Finally, the slogan for the rally is: "If you're not there, you don't care."

Dennis Anderson is at [email protected].
 

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I'll be there on April 2nd

Spread the word guys---send the poster to your friends, invite them along, tell everybody out across MN---attend April 2nd Rally at the Capital in St Paul! :thumbsup:
 

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Remember to spread the word guys about being at the rally April 2nd!

The billboard signs went up last week. :thumbsup:
 

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SOme of my friends and coworkers are ready to put a sock in my mouth i've talked it up so much! While I have't put up the fliers like I wanted...I've been giving them out. I hope we get a great turnout. Hope to see you all there. H20 is MNWaterfowl going to have a booth?
 

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Rally organizers hope to convey serious message Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune
March 27, 2005 ANDY0327
When Minnesota hunters, anglers and environmentalists convene Saturday on the state Capitol mall in St. Paul to rally for ducks, wetlands and clean water, history will be made: The event will mark the first time state sporting and environmental groups -- often distant from one another, if not in opposition -- stand united, seeking conservation and enhancement of Minnesota's natural resources.

Dubbed the 2005 Ducks, Wetlands and Clean Water Rally, the congregation of what likely will be thousands of Minnesotans will represent the conclusion of more than three months of planning by more than 35 organizations.

Yet rally organizer Dave Zentner of Duluth insists if people only come to share the day, purchase a commemorative cap, T-shirt, sweatshirt or jacket and hear a handful of people talk, an opportunity will be missed.

And nothing will change.

Cementing the groups in their effort to inspire real change in the way Minnesota's natural resources are managed is a common understanding that the state is in deep trouble. In parts of its farmlands, more than 80 percent of its wetlands have been drained; rivers and lakes are polluted; sprawl threatens more and more of the countryside surrounding the Twin Cities; and ducks -- ask any of Minnesota's more than 115,000 waterfowlers -- seem nowhere to be found.

Thus the Ducks, Wetlands and Clean Water Rally, with its layout and schedule intended to be family-friendly and educational -- and its message serious and important.

What's at stake? Zentner and others associated with the rally believe nothing less than the state's soul.

Since long before white settlement, Minnesota's lakes, rivers, forests and prairies have defined its people. Evidence of this is everywhere still today, from the number of residents who own cabins to the high percentage of Minnesotans who hunt, fish, camp, boat, hike, bike and feed birds.

Yet in many respects the state has been loved to death. Where once there were lake and river shorelines of deeply rooted grasses and tall trees, there now -- too often -- appear the finely trimmed lawns customarily associated with suburbs.

Similarly degraded, over the years, have been other natural habitats.

Many rally organizers believe that without significant changes in the way the state manages and conserves its resources, the future will unfold as it already has in states such as Ohio, Indiana and Illinois; places where, largely, Canada geese and white-tailed deer represent the spectrum of remaining wild critters. Organizers also are convinced the only way out of this jam is to join hands -- environmentalist to hunter to angler -- to educate the public about the nature and severity of the problem, thereby hoping to institute change.

In the short-term, goals of rally organizers include:

• Secure funding in the bonding bill being considered by the Legislature for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and Wildlife Management Area (WMA) acquisition at the $12 million level recommended by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

• Secure dedicated long-term funding for wildlife and habitat.

• Implement a comprehensive state duck recovery plan and wetlands initiative.

In the long-term, the groups will:

• Conduct an annual ducks/wetlands summit.

• Continue to engage and empower sportsmen and citizens in legislative and natural resource issues.

• Seek to protect, restore and enhance Minnesota's shallow lakes and to improve and enforce state wetland conservation legislation.

• Seek reauthorization of conservation provisions of the 2007 federal farm bill and increased appropriations for the federal National Wetlands Conservation Act.

'Average person'


Yet the chance that any significant change will occur is slight if the current "model" of delivering conservation in Minnesota isn't changed.

Presently, the Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and even the state Board of Water and Soil Resources often are hogtied -- financially, politically and otherwise -- by the state's legislators and governors, no matter who they might be at any given time.
What's needed is a system like that in Missouri, where an independent citizens commission directs the state's Department of Conservation; where that commission and that department must by dint of the state constitution act in the best interest of conservation; and where a portion of the state's sales tax is dedicated to conservation.

Additionally, Zentner said, new ways of engaging the "average" Minnesotan in conservation must be developed.

Other rally notes:

• Attendees are encouraged to wear camouflage and bring their duck calls.

• The rally website is www.wetlandsrally.org. On the site, available for purchase by credit card, are rally commemorative jackets, caps, sweatshirts and T-shirts. Also on the site are maps of the Capitol complex, including parking areas that will open and free of charge Saturday.

• Funds raised in excess of those needed to pay for the rally will be dedicated to a wetland/grassland habitat development project at Lake Maria in Murray County in western Minnesota.

• A kids' casting pond also will be on the grounds, as will exhibits of many of the supporting groups.

• The rally's formal program begins at 1 p.m. and will feature men and women of various ages and backgrounds telling of their affection for, and experiences among and with, Minnesota ducks, wetlands and waters.

• Retired Vikings coach Bud Grant, Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson (DFL-Willmar) and Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be among speakers.

• Near the Cabela's bus (Cabela's is the event sponsor, with Gander Mountain and other corporations also providing significant cash, products and services), visitors can contribute to the rally's wetland/grassland restoration project.

SATURDAY | DUCKS, WETLANDS AND CLEAN WATER RALLY

When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Capitol Mall, St. Paul

Related activities: Youth duck-calling contest at 9 a.m.; two-man team duck-calling contest at 10:30 a.m.; three-person title contest featuring three past state duck-calling champions at 12:30 p.m.; program, 1 p.m.; drawing for door prizes at 2:30 p.m.
 
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