Anderson: Shutdown means Regular Guy can't access federal land

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 4, 2013 - 12:20 AM

That federal land your duck stamp bought is closed. In October. And nobody in Congress asked. Or cares.

You wonder just how detached from reality the folks in Washington are, shutting down the government and twiddling their thumbs while still getting paid, yet asking — telling — the Regular Guy out here in Nowhere Land to stay off federal hunting properties he purchased with his own hard-earned cash.

In October, of all months.

OK, yes, I should have made that properties that he and she purchased, because women buy duck stamps, too, the primary source of funding for establishment of federal Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA).

In Minnesota, tens of thousands of these acres exist for the benefit of wildlife, as well as duck and pheasant hunters, also birders, hikers, dog walkers and anyone else who enjoys a stroll outdoors.

Big Brother now says each and every one of these federal parcels is off limits until further notice.

This being an edict from the U.S. government, the trespass prohibition includes states other than Minnesota.

Among these is North Dakota, with its 220,000 acres of WPAs that are a primary destination, every October, of many Regular Guys.

Perhaps you’re one.

This you?

Living paycheck to paycheck? Check. Pickup pushing 100,000 miles? Check. Have no idea how you’ll afford college for your kids? Check.

If so, and you’re also a hunter or other conservationist — perhaps still shooting the banged-up Model 12 or 870 your old man handed down to you — your members of Congress have heard from you often.

They know well you’re tired of the federal government selling out to anyone and everyone who wants to drain wetlands and plow up native grasslands.

They know also that their unwillingness to develop a federal farm bill that balances production with conservation, thereby ensuring the fertility of the nation’s soils and cleanliness of its waters — and maybe a little space for wildlife — is a real burr under your saddle.

And don’t mention again to them the Supreme Court’s navigable waters decision a few years back and Congress’ refusal to rewrite applicable laws to once again protect the small wetlands and shallow lakes that are critical to the continent’s long-term survival of ducks and other wildlife.

Members of Congress know all of this because they’ve heard from you, Mr. and Mrs. Regular Guy, for years, even generations.

They just don’t care.

Not about the two-bit vacations you and your pickup loads of Regular Guy hunters had planned to North Dakota this October.

Nor about the even-more two-bit vacations planned by Regular Guy hunters right here in Minnesota.

Nor do they care that Minnesota’s pheasant opener is in a week or so, and that without access to state WPAs, entire legions of hunters might as well stay home.

Members of Congress know this, and more.

They know, for example, that Regular Guys aren’t as powerful or as rich as ADM, Cargill, Monsanto or the other Big Ag players that actually control what occurs on the nation’s farmlands.

Regular Guys, after all, can’t even afford to own hunting land. Nor do they have money enough to lease a wetland or the grasslands surrounding it.

Instead, they’re largely dependent for places to hunt on the nation’s hundreds of thousands of acres of WPAs — for which they gladly pony up $15 each fall for a federal waterfowl stamp, knowing 98 cents of every dollar is used to buy wildlife lands.

Their hope, ultimately, is that conditions for wildlife, and therefore conditions for people, including Regular Guy hunters, will improve.

Their hope also is that someday Congress — and society in general — will get the message about the importance of land and water conservation.

Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen.

Aldo Leopold said that.

In 1949.

And Regular Guy hunters will experience it anew when they again hunt lands they paid for with their own hard-earned money.

 

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

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