To its credit, a cadre of wildlife and outdoor groups has banded together to set guidelines, albeit modest ones, for campers, anglers, hunters, hikers and other outdoor recreationists during the pandemic.
One of the group’s suggestions is to adhere to best practices for avoiding the coronavirus. Follow state and federal guidelines is another. And still another: “Pack out your trash as a courtesy to others and to avoid the appearance of overuse.”
This effort — #responsiblerecreation — has been signed onto by many of the nation’s conservation heavyweights, including the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
On the umbrella group’s website (responsible-recreation.org), a handful of proclamations by leaders of these outfits urge outdoors types to be considerate.
Becky Humphries, for example, chief executive of the National Wild Turkey Federation, offers that “this collaborative effort by the outdoor community is a reminder that while this country has numerous opportunities for recreation on its lands and waters, we need to do so in a manner that is respectful to the land and the rest of the public who also wish to enjoy these precious resources.”
Like others of the group’s directives, including those by Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Humphries’ admonition, by design, is quintessentially milquetoast.
Meaning, by Webster’s definition, “Very timid, unassertive.”
So timid that her decree, such as it is, recalls other soft-sell generalities issued to outdoor users over the years, including “don’t litter”; its hippie-like variant, “leave no trace”; and the please, pretty-please plea to boaters to “clean, drain and dry” their watercraft to avoid spreading invasive species.
Also there’s this doozy from the #responsiblerecreation bunch: “Share your adventures in a respectful way on social outlets.”
Ultimately, such coddling isn’t intended to achieve a positive measurable result.
The goal instead is to make the issuer feel good about going through the motions of “taking a stand” for the environment, conservation, the green new deal, solar power, hybrid cars — whatever — by suggesting ever so gently that the message recipient, the outdoors enthusiast — a descriptor with universal application — might want to consider, you know, if they have time, abiding by some minimum standard of behavior while boating, hiking, fishing, biking or otherwise being a tourist.
• Beginning this weekend, Americans will migrate outdoors in near-record numbers.
• Amid the current pandemic, in which more, not fewer, hospitalizations and more, not fewer, deaths are predicted in Minnesota in coming months, it’s likely only a minority of these vacationers will adhere to the basics necessary to mitigate further transmission of the coronavirus.
I know because I’ve seen it.
Fishermen stroll into fish-cleaning houses that are already occupied. Boaters crowd onto docks that are already crowded with other boaters. And hikers, bicyclists and cabin owners stop for gas and bathroom breaks while heading to Brainerd, the North Shore or other destinations outstate ... with none of them, or very few, wearing masks.
• Worldwide, coronavirus infections grew by 1 million in the past two weeks, and a single-day record 33 deaths was reported Friday in Minnesota. The virus is extremely contagious, especially indoors. If you get it, you might have no problem. Or you might die.
• The risk that cops, conservation officers, paramedics, ambulance drivers, doctors and nurses will contract COVID-19 and perhaps die, increases when the people they serve don’t make efforts to minimize transmission of the virus.
The paradox of this soon-to-occur summertime scattering of campers, boaters, anglers, paddlers and other vacationers into the hinterlands is that people who live in these rural areas, where the virus is generally less prevalent per capita, are nervous that the SUV-driving urbanites whose cash they otherwise covet might tote with them, in addition to little Jimmy, Joanie and Fido the dog, the coronavirus.
Yet — this is the paradoxical part — the farther one drives from the Twin Cities, the more cavalier people appear about the virus.
Gloves? Masks? Social distancing? Too often, it’s not happening.
Exceptions exist. One is the Holiday station in Milaca, along Hwy. 169. Not only do shields at that location separate customers from cashiers, the cashiers wear masks.
Additionally, posted on the dividers, staring customers in the face, are signs saying: “I wear my mask to protect you. You wear your mask to protect me.”
Unfortunately for the outfit’s employees, of the three times I visited the station recently, only one other customer besides me wore a mask.
Read this far and still haven’t caught the drift?
Here it is, sans coddling:
When vacationing this summer, especially while indoors in public places — whether campground bathrooms, grocery stores, wayside rests or gas stations — do the right thing.
Wash your hands. Keep a bottle of sanitizer handy. Practice social distancing.
And, as Dr. Deborah Birx, kingpin of the White House coronavirus task force, said Friday: When near other people, wear a mask.