Anderson: Outcry needed to improve fortunes for ducks, duck hunters

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 27, 2013 - 12:27 AM

Politicians, resource professionals and the press are all too silent on the plight of waterfowl in Minnesota.

hide

Duck hunters.

Photo: DOUG SMITH • dsmith@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

A week ago, on the eve of the waterfowl opener, I wrote a column saying, in part, that the duck season was opening too early and that the limits were too high.

But the column’s broader point, perhaps too broadly made, was twofold, specifically:

• By not educating the state’s waterfowlers more fully and publicly about the many problems facing the state’s ducks, and enjoining them in the fight to conserve these birds, and instead pandering (my word) to them with an early opener and higher limits, particularly for wood ducks and hen mallards, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr and Deputy Commissioner Dave Schad — ardent waterfowlers both — were doing both ducks and duck hunters a disservice.

• This disservice is compounded, I said, “especially now, during the greatest U.S. farmland conversion since the tractor replaced the horse” when the commissioner and assistant commissioner don’t “stand tall and very publicly against the onslaught of degradation that has overwhelmed Minnesota wetlands and wetland wildlife, not least ducks.”

Some thoughts:

Regardless whether a given waterfowler believes the early opener and higher limits will lower the state’s breeding populations of wood ducks, teal and mallards over time (I believe they will; others argue they won’t), virtually no one in the state sees a bright future for ducks, at least not in the near and intermediate terms, given habitat losses, the rampant use of pesticides and other farmland chemicals, and the effects of urban sprawl and other development.

A lot of habitat work is being accomplished in the state by the DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Ducks Unlimited, etc., thanks largely to passage of the Legacy Act in 2008 and establishment of the Wildlife Heritage Fund.

But few expect this work, important as it is, will counterbalance entirely the habitat losses and degradation the state has experienced, and will continue to experience.

This seems especially true given the dim prospect of passage anytime soon of a federal farm bill that reasonably balances production with conservation.

So more must be done. In my view, the state’s top conservation professionals, e.g., Landwehr and Schad, among others, should lead the way. Not only by properly establishing a public agency’s habitat, spending and other priorities, but by rallying the troops and the public at large by laying out exactly and very visibly the source of threats to ducks and other aquatic resources, and what must be done to combat these concerns.

Which of course isn’t occurring in Minnesota (or other states, or in Washington). Nor has it for many years.

The reason, simply, is “politics,” which manifests itself not only as influence leveraged disproportionately on policymakers (such as DNR commissioners), the Legislature and Congress by developers and, particularly, the farm lobby, but as split allegiances among even the most serious waterfowlers (and other sporting types).

This last bunch, for example, might love to hunt ducks or use other natural resources, but nonetheless, in a voting booth, often considers a candidate’s fiscal policy or religion or political philosophy (or whatever) ahead of his or her conservation record.

False beliefs, willingly formed, often justify these votes, e.g., that “things aren’t as bad as they seem” or “the threat is overblown by the media.”

Handmaidens to this dysfunction have been three key groups: political leaders (presidents and governors) who lack information, political will, courage or all three; top resource professionals who work for these leaders, who have the information, but fear for their jobs or careers or are risk-averse; and the press, including in some cases outdoors writers, some of whom are happy enough to shoot what they can while not straying too far off the establishment reservation, for fear of ridicule and disenfranchisement.

Years ago, the cost to society of this conspiracy of silence was relatively minimal, because resources were plentiful and threats to them fewer.

Today, we enjoy no such latitude.

Leaders, for example, who are mute on climate change and its potential consequences might as well be deniers of it, because the effect is the same: No progress.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
FIU 2 FINAL
Miami 7
Toronto 114 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Golden State 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
Phoenix 98 FINAL
Miami 115
LA Clippers 110 FINAL
Minnesota 105
New Orleans 93 FINAL
Dallas 102
Nashville 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Carolina 2 FINAL
Chicago 5
Montreal 0 FINAL
San Jose 4
Virginia 59 FINAL
Syracuse 47
Baylor 59 FINAL
Texas 61
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
Northwestern St 92
Central Arkansas 49 FINAL
Sam Houston St 76
Norfolk State 59 FINAL
Howard 61
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 75 FINAL
Delaware State 85
Lamar 69 FINAL
McNeese State 70
Nicholls 89 FINAL
New Orleans 79
Incarnate Word 62 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 83
NC Central 62 FINAL
Savannah State 49
Texas Southern 77 FINAL
Alabama A&M 75
Prairie View 67 FINAL
Alabama State 65
Oklahoma 70 FINAL
Iowa State 77
Grambling St 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 66
Boston College 66 FINAL
Virginia Tech 59
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 64
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 78 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 74
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 71 FINAL
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 88 FINAL
South Florida 65
UCF 57 FINAL
East Carolina 67
Central Conn St 53 FINAL
Bryant 55
Wagner 66 FINAL
Robert Morris 60
Sacred Heart 75 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 84
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 87 FINAL
St Francis-PA 90
Temple 56 FINAL
Houston 45
Texas Tech 65 FINAL
(6) Baylor 75
Iowa State 64 FINAL
Kansas 68
SMU 60 FINAL
Memphis 53
Oklahoma 66 FINAL
Oklahoma St 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close