Issues

A Minnesota Great Blue Heron Rookery is Threatened

A Great Blue Heron nesting site (rookery) in Rochester, Minnesota is in danger of being destroyed by development. It may be the last rookery in Southeast Minnesota of its size and likely supports the entire heron population in this area. We have a responsibility to protect it.

Hunters and Anglers Leave America a Legacy

By Craig Sterle

MN Div. Past President

On September 27th we celebrate the legacy that sport hunters and anglers left to America. It was largely the sport hunting and angling community that fought to end commercialized market hunting. By the late-1800s our nation’s once plentiful game and fish had been largely decimated by market and subsistence hunting, habitat destruction, and unchecked pollution. Hunters and anglers raised the call for regulations and protections, in an effort to stave off species extinction and further habitat destruction. Sportsmen raised the alarm as they saw the buffalo, elk, deer, passenger pigeon and waterfowl vanish from the prairies, forests and marshes of America.

Beginning modestly, sportsmen pressed for regulations setting hunting and angling seasons, restrictions on harvest methods, and for the first time, setting harvest limits. Market hunting and killing excessive numbers of birds or animals by sport hunters finally came to an end.

The first big step came in 1918 with passage of an international agreement between the US and Canada (later Mexico, Japan and Russia). The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prevented the taking, sale or interstate transport of 800 species of protected migratory birds, and later the habitats necessary for their survival.

Over time, additional measures promoted by sportsmen were passed to benefit our game and fish populations. In 1929 President Hoover signed into law the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Act, designed to acquire and preserve wetlands and waterfowl habitats. President Roosevelt in 1934 signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (aka Duck Stamp) which funds the acquisition and maintenance of these wetland habitats. In 1937 came passage of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (aka Pittman-Robertson Act) through a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition, to be matched by state hunting license dollars, providing funding to each state to acquire and maintain habitats for all species of wildlife, outdoor recreations, and later, hunter safety training. This is our state’s Wildlife Management Areas.

With a similar goal of habitat acquisition and protection for fisheries, Congress in 1950 passed the Federal Sports Fish Restoration Act (aka Dingell-Johnson Act), using an excise tax on fishing tackle to fund the program.

The result has been the acquisition of millions of acres of dedicated conservation lands, set aside to be managed for fish and wildlife habitat protection and management. These public lands are now found throughout our state and nation. The habitats are the primary goal, but these lands also are important locations for the public to enjoy outdoor recreation, including birding, hiking, fishing and hunting, and other outdoor pursuits.

In 2008 Minnesota citizens also took it upon themselves to pass the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the State Constitution, which in part uses dedicated tax revenues via the Outdoor Heritage Fund, to now purchase and protect additional fish and wildlife habitat for our State Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) and Aquatic Management Areas (AMA), as well as other conservation purposes.

Time and again the hunting and fishing community has led the effort to protect our lands, waters, fish and wildlife. They’ve created a financial support system to acquire and maintain a dispersed system of publically accessible lands designated to sustain our fish and wildlife heritage and outdoor recreation.

Founded (1922) as a fishing, hunting, conservation organization, the Izaak Walton League takes some pride in knowing that we’ve been an integral part of this legacy. Americans owe a special “thanks” to Joe Penfold, the Conservation Director for the Izaak Walton League of America (in 1964). Seeing that he could not stop offshore oil/gas drilling, he chose to make lemonade out of lemons, creating a fund from the depletion of one natural resource, to fund good conservation work across the nation. Thus, began the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). These funds are used to acquire and protect public spaces, to build recreational facilities, protect and maintain our National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and similar state and local parks, trails and forests. The intent was to annually provide $900 million from oil and gas royalties. Congress however, only fully allocated this amount twice since inception.

Recently however, Congress passed two powerful bills to fortify the original intent. In 2019, Congress permanently authorizing the LWCF. And last month, the President signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act that fully and permanently funds the LWCF. Congress even added $2 billion per year over the next five years to deal with a long-deferred maintenance backlog in our National Parks and National Forests. This provides substantial, permanent funding, at no cost to the taxpayers.

The ongoing pandemic has clearly shown just how much Minnesotans enjoy our outdoor spaces, with attendance high at our parks and trails, and fishing license sales way up. We find the outdoors a place of peace and refuge, where we can empty ourselves of our daily worries. On Sept. 27th we will celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day. Take the time to get outdoors and bask in the experiences. Say a “thank you” to all those that helped save these special places for future generations, and for making the day possible. And dedicate yourself to join with those who have worked to save America’s fish, wildlife and outdoor heritage.