To the editor:
Minnesota hunters are for the most part, homeless people. Those of us who cherish pheasant, duck, turkey and deer hunting in agricultural areas are seeing fewer opportunities for access each year. Our land-owning relatives are getting older or dying, these lands are going on auction blocks, CRP is being pulled out for row cropping and what habitat is left (private and public) is being hit hard by hunters looking for a place to call home.
However, some hope was seen last fall with the opening of Minnesota’s first Walk-In Access (WIA) program with about 9,000 acres and 90 new properties available for public hunting. Funding for 2012 has already been received by the DNR from the 2008 Federal Farm Bill and will provide 25,000 acres with about 250 more public hunting areas averaging 100 acres apiece in southwest Minnesota.
Now for the bad news. Minnesota’s walk-in access program comes to a screeching halt in 2013, since the third year of federal funding has been eliminated in Washington, D.C. by the U.S. House and Senate. At a time when participation in the outdoors is being challenged by mind- entranced youth huddled over their Smart Phones, X-Boxes, Wii, and assorted computer games, it is up to us adults to work with legislators to see if this access program for the public’s benefit will continue.
With the Legislature’s help, it may boil down to creating a new stamp for the price of a $10 or $12 box of shells in order to keep 25,000 acres and 250 new public hunting areas in the growing black desert of our farmland areas. This stamp would be optional; only those who want access to these walk-in areas would pay for the stamp in order to hunt these lands.
There are positive opportunities for Minnesota’s hunters in having a WIA program. Think it over, is it worth a box of shells?
Eden Prairie, MN
(First printed as a commentary of Outdoor News, February 3, 2012 issue.)