"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Sweet Are The Uses Of Adversity...
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

Well! Well! It seems that at least two noted groups of conservationists--one in state and one out--have awakened from their VanWinkles and are presently addressing a serious wildlife issue that I have been vainly championing for nearly half a century with little more than negative results. Welcome to the club!
I will not name these “Johnny-Come-Lately” ironclad groups, who bettered Rip, for I most certainly do not want to adversely affect their efforts to help the many forms of the critter world. Everyone definitely should join their battle. However, before you join, you should be aware of their snoozing. They have heretofore been sitting on their hands, and it hasn’t been easy for me to live with that. 

The out-of-state group (so far behind that it thinks it is ahead) is advocating mowing roadsides only after the reproductive season of wild birds and animals. That is admirable . . . at least in that state.
I say stop all mowing.
The overall problem (well worthy of consideration by our state’s most influential people) is compounded by the “band-wagon-jumping” of our folks. However, I must reiterate that the whole mowing issue (in Indiana and elsewhere) is very, very important to wildlife’s lot.
What the project is all about is creating and saving habitats along roadways. They did not spring up suddenly like last spring’s morel crop but have been with us for years providing movement for wildlife from one spot to another.

As one who has been interested--and written in the state’s largest newspaper about the mowing  problem for more than 50 years--I find our treatment of roadside habitat nothing short of deploring. When Ernest Swift was head of the National Wildlife Federation, I sent him copies of my first column efforts to correct the injustices we have heaped on the critters. 
Swift, whom I thought was only a notch below God, pooh-poohed my ideas, and I reported as much. My campaign died, but it has since been revived several times in my writings and orally . . . to little, or no, avail.
Other efforts, probably not because of anything I said or wrote, have brought about some improvement in the roadways of the interstates in our state. But, by and large, the mowing moratorium is woefully inadequate and expensive for taxpayers.
It would seem to me that any current efforts are merely window dressing to ward off legislators who could be knocking on the door. What we need is a concentrated effort to save Mr. Bob (bobwhite, that is) and all of the other critters that use weed-brush-infested roadsides. They are state-owned in most cases and more Hoosier than I am.
From this catbird seat, it appears that we need some hard-and–fast legislation to spell out what state, county, and city/town governmental offices can legally do about mowing. Then we need to enforce those laws.
When laws to govern mowing are in place, we need to launch a statewide education project on the values of weeds to our wildlife . . . our life.
“We probably can’t live here if wildlife can’t,” as I have said and written many times.
On March 18, 2002, I wrote in this column: “Via the grapevine, I have learned that the DOT (Department of Transportation), in one way or another, last year spent roughly $6.8 million mowing so-called weeds and grasses along these 1,100 miles of roads which, in reality, translates into roughly 22,000 miles of roads if you are talking about both sides, and even more than that when medians are concerned.”  That wouldn’t look real bad in black on the ledger in this year of troubled fiscal times. 
Spending for unnecessary mowing has a distinct odor of political “pork” for little old friends of administrations who happen to own tractors with cutting bars. 
It all harks back to a long-held notion of the Department of Agriculture that “weed” is a four-letter word. Actually, as I wrote last month in my column, “Garden Gourmet,” there are times when weeds are a blessing . . . even in a garden.


“Sweet are the uses of adversity, which  like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head . . . " -- Shakespeare

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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