It’s been too long since putting thoughts down but with a rainstorm in progress my day hasn’t begun as planned. A strong west wind’s blowing into the cabin and a rain spattered window view of the lake temporarily void of boats I’m reminded that we too often take for granted waters that in Minnesota are deemed public and thus we each have access to them. The same can be said of the lands held and managed for residents and non-residents alike to use and enjoy. These too seem to be unfortunately taken for granted! As the years have passed I’m sure it’s been a common error we’ve all been guilty of but I, for one owe a great deal to public lands and waters for nurturing and helping me become the person I am and the life I’ve lived including allowing me to be the father of 2 sons who now share similar outdoor passions and skills.
Hunting and fishing seeds were planted and nurtured by my parents more than a half century ago but in much different times. There were fewer hunters, family farms were strong with families comfortably raised on 160 acres of land. Outboards were usually 18 horses or less, a big boat was 14’ long and oars were the only way to move quietly down a shoreline. Duck hunting always took place on Uncle Paul’s sloughs and road hunting pheasants most often produced limits along edges of Soil Bank era fields. Permission to hunt was easy because it was usually from family members. In late fall, long before the season closed small pot holes and sloughs froze solid so it was time to head here, to the cabin to throw black n white decoys on the sandbar shallows in front using a 10’ dock section propped on its side for a blind. Shooting was fast n furious at the flocks of blue-billed rockets that roared through until damp paper-hulled shells swelled not able to be chambered. Dogs retrieved dead birds, chased cripples returning only to have their coats frozen almost solid with ice.
Those days have passed with family farms mostly gone, small sloughs either overgrown or more often drained. The dozens of black n white decoys still today hang silently in the old green tin shed with no need to float in the cold fall shallow waters because the Bills no longer fly. Pheasant road hunting is a thing of the past too but we still hunt and on some of the same ground. Instead of needing to ask Jim Cooper, Dodey Kinsella, Tom Galvin or Walt Michaels for permission these same lands either welcome guests with Waterfowl Production Area signs or Minnesota State Wildlife Management Area signs both open to the public purchased with hunter license dollars and more recently assisted by moneys from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment passed overwhelmingly by Minnesota voters. The value these lands have is immeasurable and for many, including me the only places I can now hunt and the places my boys learned to develop their hunting passions and conservation ethics. These WPA’s and WMA’s also played a huge role in laying the foundation for their adult careers not to mention places that provide habitat and land for wild birds and critters to live along with spaces for Mother Nature to filter waters returning to aquifers below.
With the passing of time lakes, streams, rivers and waters have changed a great deal too. Clean water once taken for granted as unlimited is now a valued resource. In my youth we didn’t know anything about an invasive species or the value of catch and release. Septic systems too close to lakes were condemned and forced to move to a non-polluting distance, vegetative buffers along public waters are now required by law in efforts to protect clean waters. However there is still a lot of changes in thoughts and practices that need to be made. Fishing, for the most part is excellent today but pressures on fisheries are immense. Small outboards and small boats have given way to boats exceeding 20’ powered by motors often up to 250 hp and that’s just the beginning. But here too conservation ethics are being realized through efforts that require support and funding provided by the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.
As with so many things today there are those who desire to take it away especially if there are dollars involved, dollars voted on and approved by a large majority of Minnesota voters. It’s obvious these people see little if any value in supporting any outdoor pursuits or lifestyles and in my opinion that’s worse than unfortunate. To me personally and perhaps you too if you’ve reached this point in my thoughts the outdoors and the value it holds comes in second only to family. It is the place that really has defined who I am, where I choose to spend my time and a place I often escape to simply be alone and recharge! It is a place that teaches lessons in nature, teaches curiosity, compassion and provides challenges each being important to the very essence of being human. More simply put perhaps they can teach us to live a full life! Please know this too that alone we are small and insignificant but together with the outdoors being the common bond we share we are formidable and can have a loud voice and clout too! Not so much for yesterday but for today and tomorrow. For our kids and future generations yet still marveling at a sunup over a marsh listening to all that call it home wake to a brand new day. For wild places and for a place to introduce young and old to the wonders that is the Great Outdoors far into tomorrow! Will you help protect them and help protect all public lands for everyone to enjoy? Please make your voices heard? Please?
See ya on the water or afield or on the Fan, Fan Outdoors!