Mike Riggle sets example for legislators, DNR by putting resource first
An exchange during the June meeting of the Natural Resources Board was interesting and enlightening.
The board proposed to close the ruffed grouse hunting season in early January, attempting to save some adult birds for the spring breeding season.
The grouse population appears to have dropped unexpectedly last summer and fall, and again this spring based on drumming surveys, with many theories as to why that happening.
But Mike Riggle, of the Conservation Congress, proposed closing the season Nov. 30.
The DNR responded that they thought the January date would be better for hunters, to be consistent with the closure of pheasant hunting.
Riggle politely answered, “When I hear it is the best for people, I ask what happened to the resource here?”
Riggle explained that November was when grouse shift feeding activities from ground vegetation to “ budding” in trees. He put the resource first, based on his information and knowledge of ruffed grouse.
It reminded me of meetings I have attended of the DNR’s wild turkey management committee. When the committee discusses setting permit levels for the coming season, often the first question is not about the turkey population, but how many permits were issued last season and what was the demand for permits?
In other words, how many hunters did not get permits and might be dissatisfied.
To be sure, committee members also later discuss turkey populations and habitat.
The DNR is now an agency that turns its attention first to people and businesses. It used to be an agency, when it was independent and the secretary was appointed by the citizen board rather than the governor, that put its attention first on the resources of the state.
Politicians, and now the DNR, do everything they can to placate people. Natural resources professionals’ first concern should be the resources of this state.