"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Federation To Honor Schmelz's Lifetime Work
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Scifres

The Indiana Wildlife Federation will honor Fr. Damian Schmelz, Ph.D., who has served six governors as a member of the Natural Resources Commission (since 1974), for his lifetime achievements at its annual Awards Banquet to be held on September 18 at The Garrison at Harrison State Park.

Also honored at the banquet will be State Representative Robert Bischoff, a leader in conservation matters in the Legislature for many years, and Emily Kress, a leader in the state’s conservation movement and the first distaff president of the IWF.

Schmelz, who for many years taught at St. Meinrad School, in his early years on the NRC, came to the fore in Hoosier environmental circles as chairman of a blue-ribbon committee assigned to study the very remote possibility of controlled deer hunts at Brown County State Park to save the facility from destruction by feeding deer. 

Under Schmelz’s guidance, and the work of other wildlife experts of the state, the panel (after some two years of deliberations) instructed the DNR to conduct hunts at Brown County Park. However, it still took a resolution of the legislature to prod the DNR into action.  In 1979 the concept spread to other state properties that were not hunted to thin deer herds and avoid the destruction of the flora of the properties. Conservationists have hailed the concept as one of the most important environmental moves of that century.

As a viewer of the panel’s deliberations and fact gathering, I (and many others) saw the scenario as a dedicated man being thrust into a situation that had conservationists and would be conservationists diametrically squared off to battle with the DNR ensconced politically between them. It was not a happy situation.

In the fall and winter this year, special deer reduction hunts are scheduled to be conducted at 17 state parks for gun hunters and two for bows. The hunts are conducted only to keep burgeoning deer herds in check.when the flora approaches the danger level. More importantly, millions of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees will be living healthy lives in state parks with less feeding pressure from more deer than the areas can support.

Bischoff, of Greendale, has been a Republican state representative for many years, He has served several terms as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, guiding many important pieces of legislation, and is currently chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and chair of the Summer Study Committee. He has a lengthy history of being concerned with environmental and fish and game laws.

Mrs. Kress, of rural Parker City near Muncie, headed the DNR’s Division of Outdoor Recreation for the last 13 years (retiring last Friday), where she piloted the formation of the state’s first off-road trail system. Before that she was active in environmental and wildlife matters for many years, and served as the first lady president of the Indiana Wildlife Federation. She also served as the Indiana representative of the National Wildlife Federation.

The tab for the dinner is $50 and includes a one-year membership to the IWF. Tickets may be ordered by calling: 317-875-WILD, (9453).

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view of photo.

briars.jpg (32265 bytes)
Dr. Schmelz (left) inspects briars protruding through the wire fence of a cage Naturalist Jim Eagleman (right) constructed in the hills of Brown County State Park to illustrate how deer were destroying the plants outside the enclosure. The study committee headed by Dr. Schmelz viewed the park damage. (Bayou Bill Image)

LIGHTNING--These rainy August and September days can spawn some beautiful electrical storms, but as the old song goes, “When you hear it thunder, don’t run under a tree,” especially the tallest tree in the woods. Take shelter under the understory (brush).

Squirrel hunters and others in the woods--or anywhere else--can be lightning victims. If the day is still, lightning is lurking in the skies. It may strike the earth any time. If you encounter an electrical storm, you should get as low as possible--maybe even lie flat on the ground.

Being inside a car is good, but not because you are on rubber (non-conductive) tires.

A stormy, overcast day is, of course, a great day to be in any woods--but especially a hilly, hardwood gray squirrel woods. On such days grays may work all day (often on the forest floor carrying nuts to eat or store).

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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