Governor Dayton’s Pheasant Summit generated some fascinating copy, including an interview with Minnesota Ag Commissioner Dave Frederickson in which he talked about just abolishing laws that require buffer strips regulations to be enforced because preserving water quality and habitat just creates too many hard feelings.
And we read a lot elsewhere about not pointing fingers at farmers, prompting the cartoon above about other sorts of bird dogging of the issues. That dog is setting the lobbyists, not the farmers.
This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Bluestem Prairie. Check out the links below for other recent Bluestem Prairie stories:
Today’s column by Pioneer Press outdoors writer Dave Orrick, Pheasant Summit impact to be determined looks at the outlook for pheasants in the upcoming legislative session:
. . . grassland habitat has shrunk, and the state’s pheasant population has continued its long-term decline, as has the decline of pheasant hunters buying licenses and venturing afield.
In response, Dayton convened the state’s first Pheasant Summit this month in Marshall, Minn. This pheasant hunter-dominated congress talked, brainstormed, complained, proposed and voted on a set of things to do.
Now those things lie at the feet of the Department of Natural Resources, its commissioner Tom Landwehr and, ultimately, Dayton, who appointed Landwehr and can direct the agency’s policy as he sees fit.
Pheasant hunters — and the much larger audience of advocates for wildlife and pollinator habitat, clean water and prairies — should pay close attention to how this plays out in the next several months.
What should we look for? Orrick speculates:
That roadside-and-buffer enforcement earned the most votes is fortuitous for pheasant hunters.
For one, it’s not some overly ambitious notion outside the purview of state government. Second, it’s not new regulations. And third, and most importantly, it’s a demand hardly unique to pheasant hunters.
Minnesota’s Shoreland Protection Act, which requires grassy buffer strips along waterways and drainage ditches in farmed acres, wasn’t intended primarily for the benefit of hunters. Rather, it’s a clean-water law, intended to reduce erosion and runoff from fertilizers and pesticides. Such buffers also create close-to-crop habitat for honeybees, and several beekeepers — honey farmers, if you will — attended the summit in support of more grassland habitat.
Should support be needed in the Legislature — and it’s unclear whether it would — it could come from metro clean-water and pollinator advocates who might not otherwise stick out their necks for hunters. . .
Orrick points out that while bonding for wildlife management area (WMA) acquisition is a long shot in a budget year, there’s a chance the birds-buffers-and-bees coalition will find some cover:
But don’t count out some support from farmers. Republican Paul Anderson, who owns a 700-acre farm near Starbuck, Minn., and has a neighbor who keeps bees, said, at first glance, that enforcing stream and ditch buffer requirements “makes sense.” When the Legislature convenes Jan. 6, Anderson will chair the Agriculture Policy Committee
Committee vice-chair Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) is also hearing from conservationists in her district about enforcing the buffer requirements, she tells Bluestem Prairie.
This seems like a conservative and common sense approach that could serve water quality as a well as wildlife and agriculture, which does depend on pollinators. It’s important that we have this conversation.
We’ll keep an eye out.
Cartoon by Ken Avidor for Bluestem Prairie.