"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Stand Up For Resources
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres


Chris Smith, who has led the constituent services area of the DNR Executive Office for a year, has been promoted to DNR legislative director by Robert E. Carter Jr., DNR director. 

In his new position, Smith will serve as the department’s liaison to the Indiana General Assembly. 

Smith started his DNR career with the Division of State Parks and Reservoirs as an intermittent during summers at Spring Mill State Park, while attending Indiana State University. In 1997, he joined the Division of Law Enforcement at the South Region headquarters at Lake Monroe as a telecommunications operator, then transferred to Indianapolis in 2000.    


“It is a little strange that they (Department of Natural Resources brass) would choose someone with no legislature experience for this important job.”

The creator of that terse comment on Smith’s appointment as DNR liaison (in DNR matters) to the Indiana General Assembly wishes the new appointee well, however. And so it goes for nearly every other conservationist and outdoors person of the state (including yours truly). The vast majority of this army (it should be greater) are infinitely more concerned with the resources than we are with laws and lawmaking.

For many years (dating back beyond some 50 years that I remember), resources--and those who fight for them--have been getting the nasty end of the stick. And, as anyone with interest may see, the state’s natural and wildlife resources are paying the freight in declines.

Take, for example, the bob white quail, a merry little customer that is as Hoosier as one can get. If we harvest 10,000 “birds” a year now we are doing great.  But, in the years of yore, the figures were more like two-million 

When blizzards of the last century nearly decimated statewide quail populations, we blamed the weatherman. It was convenient. Now we are told that quail were suffering downturns (due to dwindling habitat) even before the blizzard years. The question is: WHY? 

The answers to that question are so diverse that I won’t even start to explain them. But suffise it to say, at least part of it was: GREED, a something for nothing trade that has covered the gamut from mass production, to progress at all costs, to stupidity based on conquest.

Especially harmful to natural resources over the years has been a move by state, and national governments to protect rights of minor groups to be heard . . . and eventually appeased. One wag once said you could appeal anything for the price of first class postage.

Natural resources once were managed with the welfare of the resources in mind. Now the public wins in a landslide. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers once proposed a pork barrel project of “snagging and dragging” an eight-mile stretch of the southern Blue River in Washington and Harrison counties. The project was aimed at stopping floods at the town of Fredericksburg, a town with a total valuation of $274,000 at that time. Congress was close to approving the costs until sportsmen rallied to stop the Corps of Engineers in what was called a “FIRST’ in Indiana. The Indiana delegation came up empty handed for the ill-advised plan.

Rock bass, smallmouth, and a host of other water critters still live there and in the surrounding limestone ridges.

So you see, from dozens--even hundreds--of issues spreading from the nation capital to Uniontown, IN, there are (and have been) many ways to stand up for resources. Smith will be faced with some of them when the Legislature convenes this fall, and he needs all the help he can get. The biologists and technicians of the DFW--even thousands of Indiana residents--have a wealth of information and solid know-how to help the cause of resources.

There is a wealth of information on resources floating around the staffs of universities and colleges of the state. It should be tapped and made available to the legislature. And the legislators, themselves, should consider such measures on a plane or above--such matters as property taxes and others thought to be “top drawer.”

Still another area that should concern Smith (although I am not sure how he should handle it) is the Summer (Legislative) Study Committee that screens issues to be presented to the legislature. An overhaul of the legislative practice of giving one office power to block legislation may be ripe for change.

Incidentally, at this stage of the game, the study panel is advocating few prospective bills. However, a number of issues thrown in the hopper by other legislators, will be introduced--mostly crackpot. It’s like setting your watch by looking at Big Ben.

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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