"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Wildlife Habitat Destroyed and Tax Dollars Wasted
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Scifres

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 wildlife.

Forget it!

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.


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 in mailing).

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.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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