I like reading how each of the major papers in the state reports on what is happening. I hope everyone posts simuliar articles to keep us all informed. I copy & paste cause if I just used the link the article is gone in a day or so ???
Posted on Sun, Mar. 03, 2002
N.D. PHEASANT OPENER: COLUMNIST BRAD
DOKKENIt's time to be heard
Pro or con, residents with a stake in N.D. pheasant season debate
should attend upcoming public input meetings
This week, the North Dakota
Game and Fish Department resumes the process of gathering input
on a plan to open the state's pheasant season a week earlier in
What appeared all but certain just a few weeks ago, suddenly isn't
such a done deal after all.
The upcoming series of special North Dakota Game and Fish Advisory
Board meetings will bring officials from the agency to each of the
state's eight advisory board districts to hear what residents have to
say about the idea of opening the pheasant season a week earlier.
The advisory board is a governor-appointed panel that serves as a
liaison between Game and Fish and the general public. Each of the
state's eight advisory board districts, set up by geography, has a
representative on that panel. Normally, the advisory board holds two
rounds of meetings each year. The upcoming round is a "special
session," of sorts, devoted exclusively to the pheasant season issue.
The meeting for northeast North Dakota, District 4, is set for 7 p.m.
March 13 in the Grand Forks Herald Community Room.
In my years covering the outdoors, I've had the opportunity to report
on some contentious issues. The dispute between Minnesota and
Ontario over fishing rights on Lake of the Woods and other border
waters comes to mind, as does the proposal to delist the timber wolf
from federal protection and return management of the species to the
But nothing can match the furor that's erupted over the issue that
many people now refer to as "Pheasantgate." The idea of opening
the pheasant season a week earlier stirs passion on many levels.
Some critics have said there'll be too many immature roosters in the
field, resulting in hen pheasants being shot and left. Others tie the
issue in with the growing trend toward commercial hunting
operations because one of the big players in that game, The
Cannonball Co., requested the earlier opener in the first place.
There's also the nonresident hunting issue. The hunters flocking from
other states to North Dakota in ever-increasing droves represent a
source of income for small towns and farmers who choose to charge
these nonresidents for hunting access. On the other hand, many
resident hunters say they feel threatened by this nonresident influx
and the growing competition for places to hunt. And landowners - a
vital cog in the wheel of North Dakota's hunting landscape - will
encounter even more permission-seeking hunters if pheasant
season opens earlier.
All are legitimate viewpoints.
Somewhere along the line, the pheasant-season proposal took on a
life of its own, morphing from an opportunity for hunters to enjoy an
additional week in the field when the weather's nice, into an issue
that appears to pit resident hunters and landowners against
economic development interests. The issue - from what we're being
told, at least - doesn't appear to be one of biology. But it is one of
sociology and even politics. Throwing those two ingredients into an
outdoors issue is like tossing fuel on a bed of smoldering embers just
waiting to ignite.
If Gov. John Hoeven didn't know that at the time he signed off on the
pheasant-season proposal, he certainly knows it now. Ditto for the
higher-ups in the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
I'm a born-and-raised Minnesotan and even though I now live in
Grand Forks, I still do most of my hunting and fishing on the east
side of the Red. In other words, I don't feel I have a deeply seated
stake in the North Dakota pheasant issue.
I do, however, feel I have a stake in the viewpoints of Herald
outdoors page readers. And when they tell me they feel as if they've
been left out of the pheasant-season process, that neither Hoeven
nor the Game and Fish Department gave them a chance to voice
their concerns, I have an obligation to help get that message across.
It's a message I've heard on numerous occasions.
That's why we've covered the pheasant issue so extensively in the
Herald. And why we'll continue to devote efforts to covering not only
"Pheasantgate" and its eventual outcome (which remains uncertain),
but also access and other North Dakota hunting issues. For proof,
check out the four-part series on access that begins today on Page
1A. The series will continue each of the next three Sundays.
The upcoming round of Advisory Board meetings is a good thing,
because resident hunters - and anyone else with a stake in the
pheasant issue - will have a chance to be heard.
Lessons for future
But I also hope the shapers of outdoors policy in North Dakota learn
from the pheasant-season process. Communication wasn't as good
as it should have been, and that's why so many critics of the
pheasant plan have cried foul.
If communication had been better, the upcoming special round of
meetings wouldn't be necessary. Hunting and fishing license dollars
wouldn't have to be used to pay for two Game and Fish officials -
most likely director Dean Hildebrand and deputy director Roger
Rostvet - and a representative from the governor's office to travel
the state. Or pay for the $623 plane ticket to fly Ken Toop, an
advisory board member from Casselton, N.D., back to North Dakota
from a winter vacation in Arizona.
All told, the upcoming round of special meetings will cost about
$4,000 by the time the smoke clears, according to Paul Schadewald,
chief of the Game and Fish Department's Administrative Services
Considering the scope of the issue, that's probably a bargain.
Now it's up to residents of the state, regardless of their viewpoints,
to attend the meetings and make their feelings known. Game and
Fish will use that input to make a recommendation on the pheasant
season. And the governor, to his credit, has said he'll take that
recommendation to heart.
As the old saying goes, better late than never.
Dokken covers the outdoors. He can be reached at 780-1148; (800)
477-6572, extension 148; or bdokk