By Kirk Schnitker
I just love it when Gary Leaf uses the word militant. He uses as an adjective to describe someone on an outdoors matter who got something done. Or maybe someone who set the record straight. Or maybe someone who was not Minnesota outdoor nice. Minnesota outdoor nice is our outdoor nemesis. Being called an outdoor militant is to get a compliment, as I see it. Oh yeah, if you're outdoor nice you might cringe a bit because it sounds so … militant, but my desk dictionary says someone who is militant is someone who is "vigorously active" and "often combative." … not always nice I guess.
Just why is going Minnesota outdoor militant good for the outdoors? Because Minnesota nice has gotten 90 plus percent of all our wetlands drained. Because it allows for bad politics and special interests to trump proper legislative stewardship of our lands. Because it permits politicians and bureaucrats to lull us to sleep, side-step issues and do exactly what we don't want them to do. It seems more and more conservation activists are abandoning Minnesota nice for a more effective militant approach. We're making progress.
Try going militant. Here is how you do it. The next time your state representative or senator acts, votes or thinks about acting or voting contrary to your outdoor views call him or her up and tell him or her they are wrong and you plan to write letters in all their local newspapers explaining why they are bad and their position is wrong. Further tell them you plan to remind the voters about all that dirt you got on them. Oh yeah, you can tell them you would just as soon get along but them tell them getting along is way over-rated - change your vote or else!
Back to Gary Leaf. Gary and a couple outdoors militants really decided to set the tone on going outdoor militant when they started Sportsmen for Change and went after State Senator Dean Johnson. You see Dean Johnson had come to learn Minnesota nice ensured he would not be held accountable for any votes he took on outdoor issues. He said so and Leaf and others thought about it and said why is Dean Johnson right? The answer was because Minnesota nice outdoor interests always gave these types a pass because they argued there were always more issues down the road so best not offend the politician. Also since these conservationists were Minnesota nice through and through the politicians had their way with no fear of being held accountable. It is amazing how long this went on. Think about it. Minnesota big ag, the education lobby and labor unions have been playing hardball for years with politicians and bureaucrats. They learned their approach of helping their friends (with money, good words and volunteers) and hurting their enemies work to advance their cause. Outdoor Minnesota never caught on to this and still lags behind but there is hope. When Leaf and his platoon went after Sen. Johnson many Minnesota nice outdoor activists winced and said its outcome would be the end of any effective outdoor voice at our states capital. They were wrong, dead wrong. In fact, at one hearing in 2009 a state representative asked Leaf if we give you what you want, you're not going to Dean Johnson us are you? To me friends, that's an example as to how Minnesota outdoor militant works.
Now don't get me wrong. If you want to be a outdoor activist it's much easier to be Minnesota outdoor nice. To be militant you first have to listen better. Why? Because politicians, bureaucrats and even sometimes fellow Minnesota nice outdoor activists lull you to sleep with nonsense and effectively blow smoke at you that is astonishingly off topic and irrelevant. To be Minnesota militant it's hard to raise your hand and say "senator so and so what you just said is wrong, irrelevant, contrary to what you told us at our banquet, and inconsistent with sound stewardship of our land!" There was a time here in Minnesota that you would definitely be banished by everyone to the rank of the persona non grata without a friend in the world. This has changed, not completely, but it has changed and our outdoors will get better because of it.