Bernie Revering column: Goodbye to some CRP?hunting acres
The private lands open to sportsmen -- in too many North Dakota locations -- will cease to yield pheasants and sharptail grouse next October. The reason is the reduction in acreage of the Conservation Reserve Program, as a part of the 2008 Federal Farm Bill. The familiar PLOTS signs are being collected in alarming numbers by employees of the N.D. Game & Fish Department. Pheasants Forever, and other major conservation groups are disappointed. That is nothing to compare with the shock and disappointment that many of us will experience when we return to these familiar game fields. They just won't be there. Growing crops of wheat, corn, mostly, will have been planted this spring, grown this summer. One can hardly blame the landowner for taking advantage of record high prices on commodities. After all, corn is used to make E85 ethanol for our cars, at a cheaper price than oil produced gasoline. And we all want to save money at the filling station.
Bird hunters won't be the only ones who will be disappointed. Bird lovers and watchers are also affected. The lands provided ideal habitat for the pheasants -- and deer too -- along with all varieties of songbirds, small critters, almost any farmland dwelling critters. They'll all be looking for different places to bring up their own.
For not farming marginal farmland, for a payment that wasn't far off from what the acres would have produced, had a crop been planted. CRP was indeed a good deal for the farmer-owner of such tracts.
South Dakota is also affected. The Division of Game, Fish & Parks is the state unit that sees to conservation and hunting in the State, which is the undisputed king of all upland bird hunting. S.D.'s walk-in areas were tracts equal to the PLOTS of the lands to the north. There isn't as much prime hunting habitat being pulled out in South Dakota, but it is also considerable. South Dakota has lots of habitat, old farms owned by elderly folks who now live in town and have preferred to get the fairly generous CRP payments from the government, instead of leasing out the lands to adjacent, active farmers. South Dakota's non-irrigated farm lands brought something more than $55 an acre last year, and the CRP land was a dependable alternative, paying almost as much.
Nationally, about 2.2 million acres of CRP sign-ups will expire in 2008, and twice that amount a year later.
Wolves on Isle Royal National Park
On this island, about twenty miles off the shore of Lake Superior lies Michigan's Isle Royal National Park. It isn't anything special, but biologists and scientists are continually observing the packs of grey wolves that prey on the several hundred moose also roaming free on the island.
The moose have been there for a long time, but the wolves got there by crossing the frozen ice of Lake Superior, perhaps in 1948 and 1949.
Presumably, the wolf packs prey on the sick and old moose. Not always the case. Observations have determined that when a wolf pack is hard-pressed for food in the deep snows of the brutal winter at this remote place, the packs will take down large, healthy moose -- cows or bulls. And they do it with relative ease. The elusive wolves are trapped, radio collared, and observed from Piper Cub planes at low altitudes. The U.S. Forest Service is in control, from its base in Ely, l60 miles to the west.
Now there is a new visitor. The US Department Of Homeland Security has taken note of the place, as it is considered possible for illegal aliens or insurgents being able to enter the U.S. by utilizing this remote National Park. The closely watched relationships on the island, between moose and free ranging wolves has been thrown all out of kilter by the appearance of the security forces. In the summer months, several thousand tourists have been visiting Isle Royal and have taken trips through the forests and grasslands of the place, looking for a wolf pack. Moose have not diminished in spite of wolf predation. Wolves have increased a bit but not by much. Isle Royal, Michigan continues to be an interesting place.
Memorial Week End trap shooting
The 29th annual Becker County Sportsmen's Club trap shoot is under way. You can come out and blast away at claybirds as today, Sunday May 25, is the mid-day of the activity. It continues and concludes in late afternoon on Memorial Day Monday. Always a huge success and receiving accolades from participants, it is one of the best run trap shoots in Minnesota, with shooters returning year after year. Come out and see the fun if you're not a competitive shooter.
Opening Arguments heard by U.S. Supreme Court
The threshold question is: "Does the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution refer to individual gun ownership and use or dues it refer to a military limit, such as the National Guard?" The U.S. Supreme Court will give us a decision by early autumn, as the first arguments have been heard. It's anybody's guess as to how this will turn out, but Justice Anthony Kennedy has stated that he believes the nine justices will give the individual the nod. A decision that direction would change a whole lot of laws in the 50 states, and make gun ownership liberal.