Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Taking More Than We Give Back

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Are you a giver or a taker? It’s a simple question that goes far beyond a one-word yes or no answer.

The bottom line here, in the event that this question may come as a surprise to some of my faithful readers, is very simple. Do you take more from your fishing or hunting trips and your living area, than you put back?

The purchase of a fishing or hunting license grants us nothing more than an opportunity to legally fish or hunt. It is a privilege but not a guaranteed right. It promises opportunities, not limit catch or a heavy game bag.

In days of old, when knights were bold, the landowner owned the fish and game. They also owned the river water that flowed through their property, and Heaven help the peasant that poached one of the king’s red stags, a brown trout or Atlantic salmon.

The population was far less 300 or more years ago than now, and peasants were kept in their places and ruled with an iron fist. People caught poaching were severely punished, and any fish or game they may have taken was confiscated.

Things are much different now. We have flowing springs, but bottled-water plants are tapping into the aquifers. They are taking water but putting nothing back. There are developers ready to quickly fill wetlands, and they operate on the premise that it’s easier to say “I’m sorry” later, if caught, than to ask for and be granted permission first.

These are trying times, and everyone wants and needs some outdoor recreation. We need to smell the roses, so to speak, but what will happen when the roses stop growing? What will happen when former trout streams become a mere trickle before drying up because a bottling plant has shipped our water out of state for corporate profit, and the trout have disappeared because bottlers have drained and sold our water?

How many people are speaking out to Gov. Jennifer Granholm? Are you standing up to face big business, and asking the hard questions: Is sale of our water right? What happens to Great Lakes water when Arizona, New Mexico and Texas want our water? What will be done then? Hopefully, compacts already is place limit such withdrawals but those who do not care are greedily trying to circumvent those laws.

Who among us is speaking out about urban sprawl in the Traverse City area? Or near Charlevoix? Or in the Petoskey-Harbor Springs area? Cadillac is another area primed for a push from those who wish to move north to what they perceive as paradise in northern Michigan.

How many people are willing to take a few minutes from their busy lives to ask why? Why is state government allowing this to happen? Why are cities like Detroit becoming an empty maze of cluttered and unsafe streets, boarded up crack houses, and why has 1.2 million people fled Detroit over the past 20 years? Why is the same thing happening in Flint and other cities around this state?

One needs to look no furthern than some politicians. Consider Kwame Kilpatrick and his sordid text messages and political hijinks. He got come time in the can, but not nearly long enough for someone who profited while the city he was paid to protect teeters on the edge of death.

What will become of our open fields, marshlands, hardwoods and conifers that now provide cover for game and non-game animals and birds? Has anyone paid attention to the downsizing of Michigan’s deer herd? The marked decrease in snowshoe hares and some game birds?

How about those rivers where salmon and trout were once plentiful? Those rivers don’t support the same number of salmonids as they once did, and they may never regain their grerat popularity.

The answer is easy. We’re talking about an excessive loss of habitat. We’re talking greedy businessmen. How, I wonder, can Exxon and other gas companies declare such huge profits for shareholders while the average person was breaking his back trying to stay afloat when gasoline was over $4 per gallon. We have Medicare programs that no one understands, and skyrocketing prescription drug prices. It’s bureaucracy at its best.

Granted, what has happened in the past several years to our deer herd is not easy to cope with. But take a hard look at some of the problems.

Urban sprawl is eating away at land necessary for deer to live. People move north, buy their five or 10 acres of paradise, and disrupt deer travel routes. Homes are built where deer crossed roads. As more people move in, buy land, the terrain becomes even more fragmented. The deer soon disappear to another area that has yet to be exploited.

People see bears where they’ve never been seen before. The animals need a place to live, but humans have taken over. We own 20 acres we bought 30 years ago, and admit that we may have contributed to the problem. However, we did it long before the big push to move north came about.

Deer numbers in our area are way down so we hunt elsewhere. Does this solve the problem? Of course not, it just puts a bit more hunting pressure on an area that hasn’t felt the full force of land development like what has taken place around Traverse City.

Thirty years ago Traverse City was a quaint northern Michigan town with about 8,000 people. Look at it today. It has the same types of problems as southern cities now faced. Drugs, embezzlement, rape, robbery, murder. We’ve got it up here, and paradise has lost most of its glitter, but it still looks nicer than downstate so the people keep coming back for another sample of the north.

Twenty or 30 years from now, when Traverse City has expanded southeast past Kingsley, southwest to Thompsonville, northwest to fill the entire Leelanau Peninsula, and northeast to meet Charlevoix that is expanding southward, we’ll have the same problems that people fled when they moved north.

The difference is those who moved north brought much of their excess baggage with them, and now they want this area to be like their home area once was. Folks, it doesn’t happen that way.

When will people look around, see the slow but sure destruction of this area, and wonder how and why we let it happen? Of course, the answer is easy: we are too busy raising a family, pinching pennies because half our pay is a view of the bay, and if we live long enough, we’ll learn that if we aren’t part of the solution, then we must be part of the problem.

Meanwhile, paradise has been turned into another drug store, gas station, bank or a cement-carpeted parking lot. And one must look hard to find a rose to smell, a deer to see, or that wonderful silence at night when the northern lights sparkled in the heavens. Sorry folks, but the aurora borealis is hard to see through the glare of city lights.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/27 at 06:14 PM
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