"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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How Can We Curb Legislative Threats to Wildlife and Natural Resources?
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres
"It is those who have compassion for all life who will best safeguard the life of man. Those who become aroused only when man is endangered become aroused too late. We cannot make the world uninhabitable for other forms of life and have it habitable for ourselves. It is the conservationist who is concerned with the welfare of all the land and life of the country, who, in the end, will do most to maintain the world as a fit place for human existence."-- Edwin Way Teale 

In a recent e-mail, a reader of this column thanked me for keeping an eye on legislative doings related to wildlife and natural resources, and reporting my findings.

He made one big mistake. He asked what he, as an outdoors person, could do to help curb concepts and bills in the legislature that are threats to wildlife and natural resources. It was like waving a red flag at a bull.

This was an issue when I wrote my first column on the outdoors--and related subjects--more than half a century ago. It remains a big issue in this column today.

My years of observing--and being a small cog in the conservation movement--have brought about the feeling that bogus bills in the legislature are spawned by many sets of conditions.

In many cases, bills that would be detrimental to wildlife and natural resources are designed to appease a small segment of the legislator/authorís constituency without regard to others or the welfare resource. There was a time when the prime concern in such matters was the welfare of the resources. Unfortunately, over the years that has changed.

And while this set of circumstances can paint the legislator/author as a callous, unassuming nerd in the eyes of those who know the importance of resources in life, there is a good chance that the perpetrator is not aware of the foibles of his/her legislative brainchild.

Of course, horse-trading, political cronyism, frivolity, and other deterrents to the enactment of good, solid laws have been a part of the legislative process since the Neolithic Age. But there is a chance that legislators will be more cognizant of the needs of resources if they were somewhat knowledgeable in such matters.

As I see it, shortcomings of the legislature in processing bills that relate to resources are not likely to change unless we improve the process by which legislators are apprised of the merits and foibles of bills.

There has always been a small core of legislators who are well informed on the needs of wildlife and natural resources. And the bipartisan Natural Resources Summer Study Committee has done a good job of weeding out concepts that do not fit in the scheme of good management practices.

Still, every session of the Indiana General Assembly must waste time dealing with bills that would bring problems. Occasionally they pass and become law.

So what is the answer to the problem?

Heretofore, so far as I can see, there has been little effort by anyone--including sportsmen and conservation groups--to educate legislators . . . all legislators . . . in the importance of wildlife and natural resources.

I will not deny the importance of such matters as budgets, building places for rich athletes and pro franchise owners to play their games to get richer, and many other issues. But in the final analysis the way we manage wildlife and natural resources will be as great a factor--perhaps greater-- in the lives of our grandchildren and their children. 

If wildlife and resources canít live on Godís good earth, it is not likely that we can.

RIGHT TO HUNT, FISH--House Joint Resolution 4, which eventually may change the Indiana Constitution to provide that Hoosiers have the right to hunt and fish, passed the House of Representatives on January 25 [2005] in an 83-15 vote, and the Senate on March 22 on a 41-6 vote.

Rep. John Ulmer (R-Goshen) has championed the resolution that must be adopted by another Legislature after a general election, then be accepted by voters of the state on a referendum in a general election.

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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