By Steve Carney
I recently was asked to be the keynote speaker at an annual legislative event in St. Paul, and frankly, I was nervous on this one. I have been an active public speaker for decades, but this one made me very nervous. My anxiety was caused by the current state of affairs in the outdoor community and it was my job to project my views on the “state of the state” from my field experience.
The audience was composed of legislative decision makers who are very influential in the funding, management and future of our outdoors, and I basically let it fly. Being a no-nonsense person, this was a great opportunity to “tell it like it is” and let the chips fall where they may.
My focus was on the state of our water quality, which is abysmal, and the loss of habitat. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the bottom line is the quality of fishing and hunting in this state has declined significantly.
One factor is that agriculture has decimated the once prolific habitat by planting crops on every available piece of land, knocking down and bulldozing fence lines, tree lines and ditches just to make a buck. This was most evident when corn went to $7 a bushel. Now that corn prices are back down, the damage has been done. Water sources have been tiled and eliminated just to make land plowable.
I suggested the legislators take a drive from the cities and head west toward the South Dakota border. What you will see is black dirt. Pheasants, whitetail deer, rabbits, songbirds have no place to raise their young as black dirt isn’t feasible to allow the critters to survive. Pretty simple, really.
Our lakes are basically in the same shape, as algae and invasives have replaced duck food, such as snails and freshwater shrimp. No food, no ducks.
The upside is the incredible programs now being implemented in the high schools around the state, such as archery participation, and trap and skeet leagues are a total success story. The prolific expanse of the wild turkey is once again a triumph. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the bad outweighs the good. I spoke from the heart and only reported what I see in the field every day without condemning the system overall.
The bottom line is what I had to say wasn’t what these legislators wanted to hear, but these things had to be said.
My hope is that these decision makers will look closer and scrutinize the state of the state and make positive changes.
Once again, don’t assume things are hunky-dory because they are not – look closer!