Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

Feb. 12, 2001

Good things are happening in conservation

About 10 years ago, I was a conservation staffer with the United Sates Department of Agriculture.

My job was to help landowners coordinate and implement conservation practices through federal and sometimes, local programs - everything from conservation tillage, wetland restoration, and Conservation Reserve Program sign ups.

If you were into conservation and wildlife, it was pretty much a great job and learning experience. However, the job, and conservation efforts in general, did have their drawbacks.

Getting landowners to work together with federal agencies and other conservation organizations was tough, and getting those same governmental agencies and conservation organizations to collaborate and work together was even tougher.

There was, and still is, a stigma about conservation and our natural resources. We seem to always hear the negative - for example, the DNR doesn't do it's job, our water is dirty, too many wetlands have been drained, our lakes are dirty and need to be cleaned up, the fishing is getting worse, wildlife populations are going down because there isn't enough good habitat, and finally there isn't enough funding.

Those are just a few of the negatives and, I'm sorry to say, they hold true today, as they did 10 years ago.

In fact, I left the conservation job because the funding for many of the programs I worked with was being cut and President Bush (the first one) was going to implement a reduction in the federal workforce. Conservation was at the bottom of the totem pole, and so was I. It was get out or get riffed.

Although we do have our fair share of problems regarding our natural resources, and it seems we only hear about the problems, good things have happened and continue today.

Collaborations between government agencies and other conservation groups have been accomplished and are now well established. Today, when a wetland is restored, help often comes from many sources, and putting that network together is much easier.

Organizations like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever have grown and become efficient lobbyists and implementors of conservation practices.

More people understand the importance of our resources and the need to conserve and enhance them. Confirming this, many states, including Minnesota, have passed referendums reinforcing the importance of outdoor pursuits like hunting and fishing, and realizing that hunters and anglers are the major players and sources of funding for our total conservation efforts.

Locally, we have more public lands in the area that provide quality wildlife habitat than we had 10 years ago. Local sportsmen's clubs have donated dollars and time into things like lake clean-up, fish stocking, and habitat development.

Area lake associations have made big strides in planning for the future and improving the quality of many of the lakes in our area.

All these, and many more, are success stories in the conservation of our natural resources.

In the upcoming weeks, I'm going to tell you about a few of these success stories and try to provide you with general information on conservation programs and efforts, and how the conservation network and system works.

Other stories to look for include the Winsted Lake Watershed Association's efforts on Winsted Lake and a follow-up on a series I did last year on the Crow River, and the Crow River Organization of Waters.

Outdoor notes

­ The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will meet Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at Tom's Corner Bar in Winsted. Items on the agenda include; the He/She Mixer set for April 6 at the Blue Note in Winsted, pheasant program, and the building of wood duck houses.

­ The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's club is setting the details for its annual Father/Son and Daughter banquet. The event will be Friday, March 16 at Lester Prairie City Hall. Entertainment will be provided by Mike Lynch of WCCO radio with a special show on star gazing. The theme for Mike's show is "Make the Stars Your Old Friends."

­ Don't forget to purchase your new 2001 angling license. 2001 licenses are required on March 1.

­ Local fishing continues to be good with Howard and Winsted providing excellent crappie action. Also, reports from Mille Lacs and Minnetonka have been good.

­ Remember that conservation is the key to the future of natural resources and our opportunity to give something special to those coming after us.

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