By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.
Feb. 16, 2004
Even at a wake, a reason to smile
In this week’s column I have included an article from DNR Information Officer Tom Conroy.
Conroy’s story about our ever changing connection to the rural landscape really hit home with me and is extremely relevant to our geographic area.
I hope you enjoy reading it and give the subject some serious thought when you are done.
Even at a wake, a reason to smile
From Tom Conroy
There weren’t many people at his wake the other day. Not that he wasn’t well-liked. He was. But when you’re 93, with no family in the area, there aren’t many folks left to pay respects.
His son and I were good buddies in high school. The family lived on a small farm a few miles from town and I often hung out there. It’s where I learned to disc a field, put up hay and ride a half-wild horse - bareback.
The son was a country boy through and through. He drove an always dusty ‘51 Chevy, sometimes had a faint smell of cow manure about him, and was far more comfortable on the seat of a tractor beneath the hot sun than behind a desk beneath fluorescent lights.
After high school, we drifted apart. Back then, I always figured I’d someday be living the high life in the big city while my friend would return from the Navy and settle down on the farm.
Funny thing about assumptions. Instead, it was I who returned to the country and it was him who wound up in the big city.
With the old man’s death, that family’s connection to the rural landscape is likely gone for good.
The farm was sold years ago. The son, and his son and daughter, have become Twin Citians.
Similar obituaries have been written across Minnesota’s countryside countless times over the past couple of decades.
They’ll likely continue to be written, at least for the foreseeable future.
As the small farmer and the small town continue to struggle to make ends meet, the green grass of the Metro area and regional trade centers such as St. Cloud, Mankato, and Rochester becomes ever more attractive.
The hard irony is this. As those of lesser means leave for the bright lights of the city to chase new dreams, there are those of greater means passing by in the opposite direction, in search of a different sort of dream.
The dream they seek is one of scenery and solitude, an escape from the bright lights and commotion of the city.
Most often, they are escaping to a lake or quiet woods within commuting distance of work (a distance growing ever longer, since today’s commuter no longer drives a ‘51 Chevy on dusty country roads.)
In the parlance of conservation, the effect of this growing trend is called fragmentation.
You can eat an entire elephant, it’s been said, if you do it bit by tiny bit.
Well, with our insatiable appetite for a “place in the country,” or “on the lake,” we’ve been chewing on the elephant for a good long time now.
And, the effects are becoming ever more apparent. Remaining habitats are being fragmented into smaller and smaller parcels that cannot sustain healthy plant and animal populations.
Where once a woodlot existed, (for no other reason than that the owner knew it was good for it to be there) the bulldozer - snorting and grunting - one day arrives to bring down the trees. (The new development, then, is named after the trees no longer there.)
Where once uninterrupted expanses of coneflower, bluestem, and numerous other grasses and flowers covered rolling hills, bumping up against vibrant wetlands, providing haven for numerous wildlife and welcome salve for weary human eyes, roads now lead to scattered structures of sticks, brick, glass and mortar.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a place on a lake, or a secluded home in a quiet woods.
But maybe we should be a little more cognizant of the fact that our lakes are becoming more degraded. And that it takes a heck of a long time to grow a good woods. And that we continue to lose wetlands and grasslands in this state and our water quality is deteriorating.
While it’s easy to become disillusioned, there is reason for hope.
Human activity has caused our natural resource problems.
Human activity can also correct some of the problems we’ve created and prevent further degradation. In many cases, that is happening.
As the tentacles of urban sprawl creep further and further out into the countryside, natural resources are becoming more prominent in local decision-making processes.
Local government staff and elected officials, who regularly make decisions affecting natural resources, are increasingly deciding that it is better to keep the roof in good repair than to try to fix it after the water starts pouring in.
Local citizens, conservation organizations, and others are paying more attention.
The face of rural Minnesota will continue to change. New arrivals with little or no previous connection to the land will more frequently take the place of families whose ancestors lived and worked on the land for generations.
My friend said he stopped at the old farm on his way to his Dad’s wake. The house and barn are crumbling, he said, and that bothered him some.
But out back, towards the woodlots and the river, it’s all pretty much the same as he remembers it as a kid.
Even at a parent’s wake, you can find something to smile about.
Snowmobilers’ Code of Ethics
In the past few weeks I have gotten more than a dozen calls regarding snowmobiles, most of the calls have been complaints about riders.
Just like everything else, a few bad apples can spoil the entire barrel, and when it comes to snowmobiling, it only takes a few bad ones to tick off all kinds of people.
Also, the best enforcement tool the DNR has when in comes to snowmobilers that break the rules is other snowmobilers.
The following is a snowmobilers code of ethics, reprinted from the DNR Snowmobile Safety Training Manual.
1) I will be a good sports enthusiast. I recognize that people judge all snowmobile owners by my actions. I will use my influence with other snowmobile owners to promote fair conduct.
2) I will not litter on trails or camping areas. I will not pollute lakes or streams.
3) I will not damage living trees, shrubs, or other natural features. I will go out only when there is sufficient snow so that I will not damage the land.
4) I will respect other people’s property and rights.
5) I will lend a helping hand when I see someone in distress.
6) I will make myself and my vehicle available to assist search and rescue parties.
7) I will not interfere with or harass hikers, skiers, snowshoers, ice anglers, or other winter sports enthusiasts. I will respect their rights to enjoy our recreation facilities.
8) I will know and obey all federal, state/provincial and local rules regulating the operation of snowmobiles in areas where I use my vehicle. I will inform officials when using public lands.
9) I will not harass wildlife. I will avoid areas posted for the protection or feeding of wildlife.
10) I will stay on marked trails or marked roads open to snowmobiles. I will not snowmobile where prohibited.
2004 Spring light goose order beings
From the DNR
Interested participants are reminded that harvest of “light geese” (snow geese, including blue-phased snow geese, and the smaller Ross’ geese) will be allowed from March 1 to April 30 again this spring.
The harvest will occur under a federal Conservation Order, which allows 24 states, including Minnesota, to allow harvest of light geese after the close of hunting seasons.
A Spring Light Goose Permit (or License Code # 521) is required and may be obtained through any of the 1,800 ELS Point of Sale (POS) license agents statewide.
The Spring Light Goose Permit will also be available from ELS-Telephone and ELS-Internet agents.
No other license, stamp, or permit is required to participate. Although the permits are free there is a $3.50 application fee to cover the cost of issuing the permit.
Permits will be available after Feb. 20, except Internet licensing will not be available until after March 1.
Customers using the telephone or Internet license agents will receive a Temporary Authorization Number (TAN) in lieu of the permit until it can be mailed to the applicant.
To obtain a permit via telephone, call toll free 1-888-MNLICEN (1-888-665-4236) or check the DNR Web site (www.dnr.state.mn.us) for Internet licensing (after March 1).
Most regulations that apply to fall goose hunting seasons will also apply during the spring light goose conservation action, including non-toxic shot requirements and federal baiting regulations.
In addition, all refuges closed to either duck or goose hunting during fall seasons are also closed during the spring conservation action.
Shooting hours will be an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset each day, and no daily or possession limits apply.
Also, use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns is allowed.
The Conservation Order is part of an international effort to reduce populations of lesser snow geese (including blue-phase snow geese) and Ross’ geese that breed in Arctic coastal areas and the Hudson Bay area by 50% by 2005 to reduce habitat damage on the breeding grounds caused by high populations of the birds.
Minnesota has participated in the Conservation Order since 2000.
Minnesota’s harvest of light geese during this effort has varied dramatically from a few hundred to six thousand depending on weather conditions.
“Minnesota is at the extreme eastern edge of the spring migration through the Midwest,” according to Ray Norrgard, Wetland Wildlife Program Leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “March weather, particularly snow and ice conditions, can have a tremendous effect on the migration routes of light geese.”
A summary of regulations will be available from license vendors, DNR wildlife offices, or by calling the DNR Information Center at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).
DNR Question of the Week
From the DNR
Q: Winter is tough on everyone, but can be especially difficult for wildlife.
How does the cold and snow affect deer, and how do they survive Minnesota’s winter weather?
A: Deer begin preparing for winter by shedding their summer coat and replacing it with a heavier winter coat.
During a cold snap, they can make the hairs of their fur coat stand erect, which traps air near the skin and increases the insulation value of their winter coat.
This is similar to birds fluffing their feathers.
Deer store most of their fat reserves during the summer months because the twigs they eat in the winter lack the nutritional value of green vegetation.
They tend to migrate to areas with conifer trees such as white cedar, balsam, fir, white spruce or jack pine.
Conifers are warmer than trees that shed their leaves because they absorb energy from the sun.
And, like most of us, deer also try to limit the amount of time spent out in the elements.
As far as how our current winter will affect Minnesota’s deer population, it’s too early to tell that impact
’s Club annual Fishing Derby.
’s Club will host its annual Father/Son-Daughter Banquet Friday, March 19, at Lester Prairie City Hall.
’s Club is now planning its Hog Roast fund-raiser.
The date is set for Saturday, April 3 at the Winsted American Legion.
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