Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This Land is Your Land...Maybe

I left a meeting this morning feeling pissed off moderately frustrated. There may have even been some steam coming from my ears, and it wasn't because it was 100 degrees today. I sat around a table with the Sheriff in my county, 3 city police chiefs, 2 DNR biologists and a county supervisor. Sound like fun yet? I didn't think so.

The purpose of the meeting was to be bullied into discuss the possibility of "giving" ten acres of one of the state's wildlife areas over to the law enforcement agencies in my territory so they can build a private shooting range. Am I the only one who thinks this doesn't sound right?

I am in a unique position here...I am a law enforcement officer who understands the importance of regular shooting. My life may depend on it someday. But my heart tells me that taking 10 acres away from the hunters/anglers of the state is a poor choice.

Here are the problems I have with this plan:
1. The DNR already has a public rifle/pistol range (25, 50 and 100 yards) and a shotgun range. We offered to reserve the ranges for various agencies as needed.
2. The hunters of the state have been paying for the use of this wildlife area for many years, and it doesn't seem right to hand it over to a private group.
3. More than 10 acres would be affected--it is a shooting range that will be located right next to a waterfowl refuge on one side, and good waterfowl, deer, turkey, and pheasant hunting on the other.
4. This state ranks low in percentage of public land...very low.
5. Even if the law enforcement agencies give the DNR more than 10 acres in return, it wouldn't be contiguous to this wildlife area.
6. The sheriff apparently wrote a letter to the biologists and other interested parties. In the letter he said that "the DNR officers in the area" (me) are FOR this shooting range because I would be able to use it. This is a complete lie- I was never even told that there were talks about this issue two years ago, let alone ask for my opinion. The sheriff completely made it up.
7. Can't they purchase private property??
8. The interested agencies have already "saved up" half a million in "drug money"...couldn't they build an indoor range and make a little money by charging outside agencies to use it?

Of course I brought up all my "issues" with this plan at the meeting and in the process didn't make any friends with the leaders of all the law enforcement agencies in my territory. Not a good feeling when I rely on them for back-up sometimes.

But what is the role of the game warden if not to try to protect the wild animals and their habitat? Wouldn't any conservation minded person want to keep a wild area wild for the sake of their children and grandchildren?

One of the biologists told me that this kind of thing happens all the time...and it usually goes straight over our heads to the director and then the governor. We will likely lose the 10 acres.

Why is it that so many people see a big wildlife area and only see empty, unused space? What is the value of this land?

All the photos I included are taken in the wildlife area in question...I don't see any empty space.

What do you think?


  1. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Of course, I have to agree with you. Certainly there is less pristine land available for a range, as important as that is. Stick to your guns!

  2. What Cofisher said. What if this were to get leaked to the press so a public (taxpayer) uproar could be heard across the land? Seems ridiculously silly from where I sit (in front of my computer).

  3. Many people don't respect wildlife. I'm sure a lot of people look at that land and just see housing developments. It's sad.

  4. Be glad you aren't in IL ; ( and if you are..you have my deepest sympathy because our CPO's are really getting the short end of the stick) IL just gave part ( albeit small but it sets a precedent) of our largest state park to a coal developer who will be mining it... he will of course when he's finished mining it out return it to the state, along with about an extra 100 acres "fully reclaimed". Of course.

  5. Sort of speaks to a lack of willingness to recycle what we have when it comes to existing infrastructure. Sure, we'll recycle metal, glass, etc., but when it comes to building something, it seems that virgin land is the first option. Can't see why they LEOs aren't willing to pony up some money to share the DNR range, maybe enhance it for all. Shame.

  6. Wow, what a crappy position to be in. My first instinct is to leak to the press, but here's the problem: Law enforcement always wins in cases like this. This is why law enforcement officers get the sweetest retirement plan in the world in my state - no one ever wants to say no to them.

    That said, I'd still leak it to the press, and I'd definitely bring in wildlife organizations in your state, as well as environmentalists. Hunters are a minority, but the larger group of wildland-lovers has a bit more clout.

    For context, I'm a former politics reporter.

  7. I have definitely thought of the "taking it to the press" idea...I'd have to be careful. It is frustrating to always walk on eggshells around issues like this. It seems like our position should be pretty clear, but it is true that law enforcement agencies get a lot of public sympathy. More than the wildlife of our state.

    Thanks for all the comments-I'm happy to know that I'm not over-reacting.

  8. BTW, and this is unrelated to this discussion, but you may get a few referring visitors from my blog. In that event I apologize in advance- it's an unsavory lot that tends to frequent the UA and I cannot be responsible for their behavior here.
    Now, back to the discussion: leak it to the press.

  9. Hey Kirk- Your Olive the Little Woolly Bugger series looks great. I put a link to the blog and I know some books that Chatterbox and Towhead will be getting!

  10. Thanks, Fish Cop! I love it when Olive hooks new readers, and I hope your kids enjoy. Towhead and Chatterbox...what great monikers. My kids could have been labeled as such when they were little, too.

  11. Will they be forced to use non-toxic shot? Think of how much lead will be generated by the regular use of this shooting range. Are the state biologists so limited in their thinking that they see this impending contamination as a good idea?

  12. "Why is it that so many people see a big wildlife area and only see empty, unused space?"

    That kind of seeing is, I feel, one of our biggest faults as a culture.

  13. The first question that came to my mind was the shot they would using but Rabid beat me to the punch ;)

    I work for my state government and work closely with DNR. We just found out that my state now has coyote...which are eating all our fawns. Rumored has it that DNR imported them in to maintain the deer population. When questioned, they denied it and said they coyote migrated. Hmmm...pretty interesting when my state is pretty much an island. I can't see them swimming across the bay to get here, haha.