Forty-two percent of hunters and anglers who consider themselves Republicans, and an even greater percentage who say they are ideologically conservative, agree with hunters and anglers of more independent and liberal persuasions that global warming is occurring and that the nation’s natural resources should be protected for future generations.
These and other findings of a nationwide poll conducted for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) were released Tuesday in an effort to inject conservation into discussions leading up to November’s local, state and national elections.
“Hunters and anglers have a strong desire to pass on this incredible (outdoor) legacy,’’ NWF supporter Theodore Roosevelt IV said in a conference call with reporters. “We want to encourage sportsmen to raise their hands and ask questions (of candidates) this fall.’’
A high percentage of hunters and anglers vote, the poll found, and while gun rights are important to them, natural resource conservation is also important.
NWF Minnesota spokesman Gary Botzek said the poll was conducted because, “We need to get (conservation) on candidates’ agenda, their radar screen. Now is the time to talk about our favorite issues, ranging from clean air to clean water to all of the hunting and fishing issues.’’
Kathleen Hadley, a NWF national board member from Montana, told reporters that warm weather in recent years has contributed to “turning our forests into tinder boxes.’’
“Ranchers are worried about feeding their livestock, and hay prices are out of sight,’’ she said. “We need to ask our political candidates to lay out their plans for wildlife and our public lands.’’
According to the poll:
• Most (59 percent) respondents believe global warming is occurring, and 66 percent agreed that, “We have a moral responsibility to confront global warming to protect our children’s future.’’
• Most (57 percent) favor the government’s effort to limit carbon dioxide and other air pollutants that affect the public’s, and wildlife’s, health.
• A clear majority (87 percent) worry kids today don’t spend enough time outdoors.
• And 79 percent favor restoring clean water protections to smaller creeks, streams and wetlands — safeguards that were undercut by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
The poll did not ask its 800 respondents where conservation fits among their hierarchy of political issues. Other polls have shown the economy dominates voters’ concerns.
In Minnesota, Botzek said, hunters and anglers were most recently politically energized in 2004 and 2008.
The constitutional right to hunt and fish passed in the earlier election, and approval of the Legacy Amendment followed four years later.
But neither hunters, anglers or other conservationists seem motivated this election cycle, despite big issues “left hanging’’ in Washington and St. Paul, Botzek said.
“On the federal level, the farm bill didn't’t get done, CRP is going away, and clean water legislation didn’t get done,’’ Botzek said. “Here in Minnesota, wetland protection needs to be strengthened, as do invasive species and drainage laws.’’
Conducted Aug. 27 through Sept. 1, the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
The entire poll is available here.
Years of work by various conservation groups, the Department of Natural Resources, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, Crow Wing County, the Legislature and Potlatch Corp. ended to wide acclaim Thursday when agreement was reached to protect 3 miles of Mississippi River shoreline and 2,000 acres of woods just north of Brainerd.
Called Mississippi Northwoods, the project concluded when the non-profit Trust for Public Land agreed to purchase the property for $11 million using Legacy Act money.
The land is expected to be transferred in the near future to Crow Wing County, which will manage it as a county forest open to multiple uses, including hunting.
A paved state trail might some day also be contained within the property.
The project overcame a number of obstacles, including the reconciliation of multiple appraisals that valued the property as high as $14 million.
In the end, the $11 million was agreed to by Potlatch.
“We’re delighted this spectacular piece of property will be protected after many, many years of work, considerable negotiations and great examples of leadership,’’ said Becca Nash, project manager for the Trust for Public Land.
The acquisition creates some 9 miles of protected shoreline when combined with nearby state trust land, county forest and a wildlife management area.
Fishing in the portion of the Mississippi River fronting the property can be excellent for largemouth bass among other species, and waterfowl hunters have used the area for decades to hunt ducks.
A series of DNR-sponsored Brainerd-area meetings held shortly after the Legacy Act was approved by voters in 2008 showed considerable support for protection of the land and shoreline.
Purchase of the property should close within two months.
A bill was introduced in Michigan last week to establish a wolf hunting season in that state.
If passed, Michigan would be the third Midwest state after Minnesota and Wisconsin to establish a wolf hunting season.
Reporter Agnieszka Spieszny of Outdoor Hub news says Michigan DNR Director Keith Creagh acknowledged in a visit to the state's Upper Peninsula that, "At the end of the day, there’s going to be a method of take and it’s the DNR’s opinion that you ought to be able to utilize hunters to help with depredation complaints in nuisance areas.”
The proposed legislation says, in part, that "“the sound scientific management of gray wolf populations in this state is necessary, including the use of hunting as a management tool, to minimize human and gray wolf encounters and to prevent gray wolves from threatening or harming humans, livestock and pets.''
Gray wolves in Michigan were delisted as endangered in January. Spieszney reports that proposed fees include a $100 wolf hunting license for residents, $500 for non-residents and a $4 non-refundable permit application fee.
Here are a couple of photos that show the devastation of the flooding up north, specifically the swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park, which has been evacuated.
The photo immediately below I took on a fall day a couple of years ago, while standing downstream of the bridge and while wading about knee-deep in the St. Louis River.
The second photo below is an aerial shot taken Thursday by Star Tribune photographer Brian Peterson.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has issued a report saying that Monsanto's new drought-tolerant corn, DroughtGard, might not yield farmers the gains they hope for in dry years.
Conservationists have watched with deep concern as genetically modified crops such as DroughtGard are introduced, fearing — rightly, as it turns out — that fragile grasslands in the central and western Dakotas will continue to be plowed up and planted.
Historically, these lands have never been financially feasible to farm, in part due to a lack of rainfall in the area. Cattle grazing instead has been their primary purpose — thus preserving the same grasslands that ducks, pheasants, songbirds and other wildlife have utilized since time immemorial.
But high commodity prices and a federal farm bill that to date has virtually guaranteed farmers a return on their investments in breaking new ground — regardless of the ultimate yield — have driven farmers to open up new lands to agriculture.
Now the UCS has issued a report saying that improved breeding of seed types and better farming practices are better alternatives to improving total farm yields than projected developments in engineered crop genetics.
“Farmers are always looking to reduce losses from drought, but the biotechnology industry has made little real-world progress on this problem,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with UCS’s Food & Environment Program and author of the report. “Despite many years of research and millions of dollars in development costs, DroughtGard doesn’t outperform the non-engineered alternatives.
“If we were to conduct an apples-to-apples comparison today, we’d find that breeding and improved farming practices have increased drought tolerance in corn about two to three times faster than DroughtGard,” said Gurian-Sherman. “Classical and newer forms of breeding are also far cheaper.”
Arguably, the UCS has a dog in this fight, in that public research dollars it seeks in the new Farm Bill likely would trickle down to some of its members.