Last week the Natural Resources Board approved spring hearings questions from the department and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, as well as putting forward some of their own questions.
While I realize social media is not what one would really call the “thinking man’s game,” I found several people “going off” about things they said the board was going to simply impose on them without recourse. Of course, many people do not read a story, but rather just comment on the title and what they think the story is going to be about. So that may be the reason for much of the static, as it were.
The thing I want to stress is that we can all be part of this process. Unfortunately, very few of us do. In a few counties, the number of people who attend the spring hearings and vote on the questions does not even hit the double digits. But you can bet, as soon as a rule change goes into effect, or some perceived wrong is not righted, the next weekend, the local watering hole will be full of people griping about what did or did not happen. Yet those same people will not take the time to voice their opinions. We are quick to tell those who do not vote in the political arena, that if they do not vote, they have no right to gripe about how things are. Yet, in the area of outdoors — hunting and fishing — we do not see the same decorum.
I realize I am on my soapbox, where I find myself every year when these questions come out, but I do it only to urge everyone to participate. One of the great things that came about last year, and will be available again this year, is the ability to vote online. I get that sometimes, especially in larger counties or extremely rural areas, it can be difficult to get to the spring hearings location in the county. I totally understand that. I know people work and have busy schedules. But with the advent of the online response capability, it would be great to see more people weigh in.
Each year the Wisconsin Conservation Congress proposes many questions, as do advisory committees of the DNR. Some of the questions attendees of the meetings will see are cited resolutions. Those who feel passionately enough about a specific topic or rule have the right to craft a question regarding a change they see as necessary. From there, the county in which the citizen resides votes on that question. If the vote is to pass the question on, it can then be voted on by the entire state at subsequent meetings and has a chance to become a rule change down the road. Of course, not all citizen resolutions get that far — and, honestly, I have seen many of them and some of them truly do not warrant being moved on, but everyone is entitled to their opinions and to voice their concerns. But some resolutions do move on. And some resolutions make it all the way through the process and effect real change in the way we manage different wildlife species.
The point is we are all as important as stakeholders. We will never all agree on things, I do not think, as we all have our own unique set of experiences. But that is also what makes this process so great. We all get to have a “kick at the can,” as some on the Natural Resources Board are fond of saying. Not every question proposed at the spring hearings affects every stakeholder. For instance, there are lakes I do not fish (the horror! I agree), so I am not an immediate stakeholder of that lake or its resources.
At the same time, a new ruling on one lake could be used as a management tool on a lake I do fish, so I still pay close attention. And that bears another thought: even if a rule or proposal does not directly affect a sportsman, that does not mean it will never set a precedent for future use or rule making. So, even those questions deserve some thought and consideration. Some of the questions which do not concern a particular individual, too, may spur an idea of which we have not thought. It may provide someone enough fodder to create their own citizen resolution in their own county. And I think that is important.
One reason to attend the meetings in person is to vote for our Wisconsin Conservation Congress delegates. These are the people who represent the feelings and needs of the people within their county. They are important positions, and many often run unopposed. With that being said, I can honestly say I think the delegates in my county do a great job and I do not see a reason to vote anyone out. But at the same time, it would be good to see more people run. They are volunteer, unpaid positions, of course, but they are important nonetheless. I have always believed that more opinions and ideas are better than fewer, so getting new people into these positions could bring new ideas and “fresh blood,” if you will, into our thought process. In the coming weeks, I will talk more about what we can all expect to see on the spring hearings questionnaire coming in April, and also where to go to vote in person. And do not forget, the option to vote online will also be offered again this year.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].