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Ah, the changing seasons. Summer to fall, fishing to hunting, hunting to Snowmobiling. But wait, thereís another season and while it arrives with little fanfare, a growing number of fishing, hunting and outdoor folks recognize the need to prepare for and participate in the "political season".
To me, the term "political" means any public process intended to determine the outcome of a hunting or fishing related issue. For example: public meetings held by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to determine a more restrictive hunting season for the triple tailed Pikealope would be "political". Likewise a local gun club that conducts a meeting to discuss the range preservation bill would be "political". So in other words, no matter what the process, all sportsmen and women are affected in some way, by some policy or rule that has come about as the result of public input or the lack of it.
You see even while outdoor folks prepare for fall-winter fishing and hunting seasons, there are countless issues concerning sportsmen and women that demand attention. Slot limits, access to hunting land, shoreline issues, predator control, ATVís, Walleye Stocking and the list goes on and on. Remember the old saying? "If you want a job done right, do it yourself" This is true now more than ever and like it or not, someone has to be out there working to preserve and improve the heritage that many of us have enjoyed for a lifetime.
Sadly, the fact is that most folks donít take time to get involved. Itís no wonder that the average hunter would rather spend time in the blind than at a public meeting or that a fisherman would rather be in the boat than pouring over some Walleye stocking statistics. But without thoughtful input from citizens, the folks who take the decisions never really know for sure if theyíre moving in the direction that serves the greatest number of their constituents.
In Minnesota today, hunting is currently stable but barely holding itís own. Fishing is on the decline causing concern among the manufacturing industry, resort owners and small town businesses. In areas like ours, the under-pinning of the economy is still tourism and most small towns in the Northern half of the state could ill afford to be without it. So why wouldnít folks want to get more involved?
Some of the problems we face are brought about by a phenomenon that occurs whenever hunters and anglers gather. We almost always agree on what the problems are, but we seem to only ever disagree about what the solutions should be. Maybe itís rugged individualism or maybe itís something else but either way we owe it to ourselves to make strides toward seeing some of these issues from a wider point of view and work toward presenting a more unified voice. Organized sports groups offer some help, but often become stuck in the rut of single issues and suffer from the effects of over exposure that occurs when one person (or a small group) pleads a case for so long that public officials get tired of hearing from them.
Youíve seen it before, somebody has been talking passionately about an issue for several years and over time, people learn to sit and listen, purposefully quiet while the storm passes and then move on to other business. Meanwhile, the issue remains unresolved and folks become even more frustrated with the process. Another problem with some of these sportsmenís groups is that they purposely avoid getting involved in most political processes. They gather money, but would generally use it for habitat development and the like, seldom putting it to any political purpose. So while these groups serve an important purpose, there needs to be additional attention in areas that they avoid.
Another area where we could make fantastic progress would be in striving to overcome our (sportsmen) irksome habit of only gathering in numbers when there is a crisis. Usually attendance at public meetings is extremely light. But let an issue go long enough and a crisis will eventually develop. The next thing you see is a meeting with all kinds of folks that come looking for a chance to vent. These emotional meetings are seldom productive and cause further divisions among folks who would be much better served by working together. If only these same people had gathered before there was a crisis and developed a long-range strategy ahead of time, real progress could be made.
Hereís a game plan that works really well for me and I suspect that it would for lots of people. Pick an issue or two that really interests or concerns you. Stick to that subject and get involved only in areas where your interest is directly affected. No one can or should be expected to attend every public meeting on every topic. But by selecting a pet project thatís important to you, youíll become more knowledgeable about that subject and over time your knowledge will earn you respect among the folks who work with you.
Be sincere and interested in learning new facts. Over the years Iíve seen an awful lot of folks who have lived by the motto; "Never let the facts get in the way of my opinion". Know matter how strongly we feel about a particular issue there is always a legitimate argument for the completely opposing point of view and in most cases the true answer lies somewhere in the middle. Itís really important to come to these issues with the attitude that youíre seeking knowledge rather than to advancing a pre-determined cause.
Winter is the time when opinions are gathered and decisions are taken. So whether your issue is snowmobile trails or mechanical duck decoys, thereís a place for you in the process. Stand up, be counted and take pride in the heritage that youíre passing along to the next generation of young anglers, hunters and fishing guides.
|"Jeff Sundin is a full time Minnesota professional fishing guide and member of the Up North Pro Staff and founding member of the Northern Minnesota League of Guides" Visit him at www.jeffsundin.com|
The Early Bird, Jeff Sundin
PO Box 627
Deer River, MN 56636
Phone or Fax 218-246-2375
copyright © Jeff Sundin 2001-2007 All Rights Reserved 2/13/07