Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

April 9, 2001

Spring is finally getting here

The snow is melting. The days are longer. Canada geese, ducks, and other birds are returning in big numbers. The sun is warmer and sloshing through the mud is a lot better than trudging through two feet of snow.

Yes, spring has finally arrived. One day last week, I went to bed with sounds of snow geese squawking while flying north via moonlight and then woke up in the morning to the songs of a host of birds perched at my feeders in the backyard.

After a very long winter, which in my books began Nov. 11, the sounds, smells, and feel of spring are more than pleasant and warmly welcomed.

Also, with much of the snow gone and farm fields opening up and presenting ample food for wildlife again, I had the pleasure of watching four swans eating from a small pothole near Howard Lake.

On another occasion near Lester Prairie, my daughter Abbi and I watched six wild turkeys feeding and scratching in a muddy corn stubble field.

The turkeys seemed so pleased the snow was gone and very content with the mud that our presence in the road ditch didn't bother them much. We watched for more than 20 minutes.

Now, with spring here, we can expect thunderstorms, trees and plants budding, grass turning green, farmers working the fields, and eventually the ice leaving our area lakes for another season.

Currently, the ice on area lakes is still very thick and ice anglers are still drilling holes and catching panfish. The ice has started to turn a bit gray, but without very warm temps or some heavy rains, it will be around for more than a couple of weeks.

My final statement regarding the hard-water fishing season, as it should be, is about ice safety.

Remember, ice is always dangerous. I'm not going to give you all the tips on ice safety that we should never forget. I'm just going to give you this piece of advice.

It's April now, spring is here, the ice at this time of year is extremely dangerous, and conditions can change rapidly, store the gear and give it for the season.

We have been extremely lucky this season in regard to accidents on our lakes. Let's not spoil it now and make the obituary section of this paper.

Spring is here - get out there to enjoy it and watch it happen.

Education will keep the birds singing

Today, the future of our outdoors, our natural resources, and our environment depend on how we educate the youth of our communities as well as ourselves.

Everyone in our society deserves the opportunity to develop a strong relationship with the outdoors. To experience the joy of fishing, the explosion of sound and color when pheasant rooster flushes from cover, the solitude and beauty of nature, and the magnificent singing of a songbird at sunrise.

Without a clear and defined commitment to educating our youth and society about the outdoors and all the small and fine details that go with it, all of our problems related to the matter will continue and worsen.

Knowledge of our outdoors needs to be taught, experiences must be shared, stories told and the opportunity to participate provided.

If these are not accomplished, individual relationships with the outdoors are not developed, and without that person understanding or relationship, eventually the birds will not be singing.

I wrote those few paragraphs in this column on April 4, 1994. Today, I feel those words are even more important and I can happily say the conservation society has made several strides in educating our youth about the outdoors, our natural resources, and environment.

Of those strides, the largest and most recent has come from Pheasants Forever through the Leopold Education Project.

The goal of the project is to help kids, adults and educators is much the same as Aldo Leopold's goal - to instill in kids and adults a love, respect, and understanding of the land. In my words, to develop and personal relationship with the land and the outdoors.

The following is a brief description of the project, how to get more information, and by all accounts, one very good thing happening in conservation today.

A Sand County Almanac is heralded as one of the most important and influential books in the history of American conservation.

Despite its excellence, only a small percentage of teachers, naturalists, and interpreters are familiar with the powerful legacy Aldo Leopold gave us.

Even fewer use this book and its unique combination of excellent literature and solid science in their educational programs or classrooms.

The Leopold Education Project (LEP) was conceived and designed to make this tool available to educators in both formal classroom and informal teaching situations. LEP utilizes hands-on/minds-on activities to combine content knowledge with creative and critical thinking skills to foster a relationship between students and their natural and cultural environments (collectively "the land").

The LEP is an ethics-based program designed to help students in grades 6-12 see the land, understand what they see and enjoy what they understand.

LEP does not advocate particular positions, but rather uses a multi-disciplinary approach to promote responsible decision-making and actions regarding our impact on ecosystems. The program is designed to get educators and students outside to understand the world around them and form a "land ethic" from their own experiences.

LEP promotes excellence in environmental education by training educators to utilize this interdisciplinary ethics-based curriculum based on Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac."

LEP provides a support network including the Strides quarterly newsletter, the website, and three types of workshops.

Educator workshops provide a full day of hands-on activities that enhance and improve the capacity of educators to make creative use of this unique and powerful educational tool.

Participants receive the LEP curriculum and are added to the LEP network.

Facilitator workshops expand the training with two days of activities designed to give the participants the skills to present educator workshops and assist educators with the use of the LEP curriculum materials.

The LEP annual national workshop is a combination of dynamic speakers, hands-on workshops and field tours of the very Sand Counties that inspired Aldo Leopold - including a trip to The Shack. This is an inspiring and exciting event for educators and facilitators to gather and exchange experiences regarding their efforts to further a "land ethic."

LEP can be reached at 877-773-2070.

Outdoor notes

  • The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club recently approved a donation of fertilizer spraying and land preparation to the new wildlife area near Lester Prairie. The area is being developed by a group of several Mcleod County conservation organizations. For more information on the project get on the Web and go to and find the column dated April 2, 2001.
  • Remember that no ice is ever completely safe. Although the ice on our area lakes is still very thick, ice conditions at this time of year can change rapidly.
  • Good luck and safe hunting to area wild turkey hunters. The first season of the spring wild turkey hunt in Minnesota begins Wednesday, April 18.
  • Look for bald eagles migrating through our area this spring. Bald eagles like to follow the ice-out line on their way to nesting grounds farther north.
  • It's time to get your wood duck houses in shape and your hen houses out.
  • The trap shooting season at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club begins this week, with a practice shoot Wednesday, April 11.
  • The Minnesota fishing opener is set for Saturday, May 12.
  • Take some time to watch the arriving waterfowl and enjoy spring.
  • Conservation and education will keep the birds singing.

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