By David Horst firstname.lastname@example.org
For many years, I listened to the moans of my newspaper colleagues as they went off to what they described as an endless evening covering one of the spring Conservation Congress hearings held in each of Wisconsin's 72 counties.
|Sandhill cranes call in the hayfield |
of Sandhill Llama Farm
Last Monday finally found me at the Outagamie County conservation hearing at Appleton North High School. I was there for the birds.
While the hearing did grind on like a tortured old winch motor, it only lasted about an hour and a half. No one shouted. No one booed. In fact, not many people even spoke. Even so, I felt like staying through the whole hearing should have earned me a cap or something.
DNR conservation warden Thomas Sturdivant dutifully read through the often minute changes in regulations for fishing in this location or trapping at that hour of the day. Then he came to proposal No. 25 on the green ballot. It was to create a hunt for sandhill cranes.
Check my email address, check the name of our farm, check my license plate and you will see I am a fan of cranes. I raised my hand and made my way to the microphone to state my case for a vote against crane hunting to a crowd I knew was not in my camp.
First of all, this proposal was not a recommendation from the DNR. The Conservation Congress allows a single citizen to propose a change in hunting or fishing regulations. This one came from a farmer in Manitowoc County.
That sounds like a rare example of basic democracy, but it’s not. Democracy represents all of the people and, at the Conservation Congress meetings, the only ones really represented are guys who hunt and fish. That’s the fault of all of the rest of us who don’t attend but, let’s face it, this agenda has a limited draw.
Whether to hunt sandhill cranes should not be an issue of public opinion, was my argument. Cranes are a public resource and my right to enjoy them by looking through my kitchen window and watching them dance out in the hayfield is just as important as someone else’s interest in eating them. The question is, what does the science say? Is the population greater than the environment’s ability to sustain them?
A man who spoke after me talked about crop damage caused by cranes and said farmers would overwhelming favor a crane hunt.
Cranes cause crop damage. That’s clear. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who says he saw cranes walking down a row of corn plucking out the seedlings. The question is, how much damage?
Can noise generators or seeds coated to taste bad to cranes or crop loss reimbursements handle the problem? What’s the balance? That takes research, and DNR researchers are a threatened species in the state budget currently before the Joint Finance Committee.
Not surprisingly, my arguments weren’t that persuasive. Outagamie County’s hearing recorded a vote of 58-31 in favor of a crane hunt. Statewide, the crane hunt prevailed in 56 counties, lost in 15 and tied in one. They did, however, oppose the shooting of white deer and advocated for people planting milkweed for monarch butterflies.
Luckily, in the Conservation Congress, a majority vote doesn’t necessarily win. Cooler heads on the Natural Resources Board review these proposals and I’m hoping they reject this majority vote, as they did last year.
With the current trajectory of the comeback of cranes in Wisconsin, there may come a day that a crane hunt is necessary. But that day shouldn’t come based on how many other states hunt cranes, what the guy on the next barstool heard from a farmer he knows or what a hundred or so guys in a school auditorium mark on the green ballot.
It’s my resource, too. Give me the facts.