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
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
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.
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