It looked for a time as though the state was ready to do something about
using roadsides for something other than mowing fields, which translates
into the annual spending of millions of tax dollars for useless mowing.
It looked as though the roadside managers might be ready to do some serious
managing of hundreds of thousands of acres of good ol’ Hoosier soil for
It now appears that the DNR and INDOT are in “cahoots” to quo the status,
an over-simplified way of saying the mowing machines will continue their
onslaught on anything that would tend to make our roadways appear cluttered.
If this sounds gibberish let me put it in perspective.
As you can see from driving the interstates and many of our other highways,
INDOT--not to mention most city and county roadway authorities--look upon
weeds as an excuse to pay someone to cut them. It is similar to the attitude
of the US Department of Agriculture on said weeds.
This is not something that popped up like last spring’s crop of morels.
It has been happening for many years. As a matter of fact, your den keeper
has been calling (much in vain) for someone to do something about this
situation for next to 50 years.
This year Dick Mercier, president of the Sportsmen’s Roundtable, the
state’s largest organization of outdoor folks and conservationists, with
guidance from Pheasants Forever brass, took the issue (with the blessings
of numerous legislators) to the Department of Natural Resources Summer
Legislative Study Committee.
The idea was to get support for legislation that would curb mowing of
the roadways and provide added habitat for wildlife.
All went well at the first meeting of the Study Committee, whose members
are legislators. But at the second meeting of the panel last Wednesday,
an INDOT representative was cocked and primed to whitewash the situation
with the notion that such legislation is not needed . . . that INDOT is
doing a great job of managing the road rights of way.
Members of the study committee were regaled with the wondrous way INDOT
has handled the rights of way over the years. It must be said that when
our interstates were new their roadsides (along fence lines) were covered
with autumn olive and perhaps some other plants. It must also be said that
such planting offers a haven for wildlife.
But it must also be said that the common practice of mowing grasses
and so-called weeds at the peak of reproductive seasons for many ground-nesting
wildlife species is a red check mark on the ledger (even if the millions
of tax dollars squandered are not a factor).
It was bad enough that the legislative panel would seem to view the
whitewash as a work of art.
But when an official of the DNR started beating the INDOT drum without
even casually mentioning the fact that a lack of habitat is a chief concern
of wildlife managers, the casual observer of the whole affair could but
would think it difficult not to view the performance as a quasi act of
collusion by two agencies of state government.
So where does the mowing snafu stand now?
The study committee took no stand on the issue, but there seemed to
be a general agreement that the folks who would like to curtail mowing
of our roadsides would meet with INDOT officials to determine whether there
is a need for such legislation.
Perhaps we will hear more on that.
SELL YOUR SQUIRREL
Your deals may not shake the underpinnings of the fiscal universe--or
even the world--but you can sell your squirrel tails for good money to
Mepps, the maker of those wonderful, fish-catching spinner bucktail fishing
lures that we have used for so many years.
Tails should be frozen straight with bone intact and mailed to Mepps,
626 Center Street, Antigo, WI 54409. It is a good idea to salt the bone
end of the tails and avoid the use of plastic (this could spoil the tail
If you would like to sell your squirrel tails, it would be a good idea
to get the directions by writing Shep Mepps at the above address or checking
out squirrel tail handling procedures on the web site (http://www.mepps.com).
Incidentally, Mepps folks point out that the company does not advocate
the killing of squirrels for tails only. Their rationale seems to be that
fried squirrel with hot biscuits, gravy and some other summer delights
is fine table fare.