Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sportsmen & Outdoor Groups vs. Wildlife

By Duane Fronek

I’ve been debating about writing this for awhile, it’s basically just my view on what the different organizations out there today whether it’s fishermen, deer hunters, duck hunters, trappers and even some groups like the Timber Wolf Alliance. So before I proceed I would like to make it perfectly clear, that this  is in no way, condemning or saying any one of them is bad, as a matter a fact I belong to a few of them. And I share this same viewpoint with them inside the different groups I belong to, as I’m sharing here, and the reason being is, because I believe in what I believe strongly, as do those who do not see it in this way. All the outdoor sporting groups all play their important and necessary  part as they should, and I commend all the groups for their dedication and hard work. The ones I use as an example in this article are ones that are close to home so it’s not like I’m picking on certain groups, their just the ones I’ve seen more of and worked with more or has affected myself more and more importantly the wildlife around me.

  These groups pour a lot of money into their designated passions because after all, that’s their passion and it’s understood. But what I’ve seen, although good, there tends to be a certain degree of tunnel vision within these groups, some more than others.  And I believe that this tunnel vision is sometimes detrimental or maybe just not the best course of action as a whole for the wildlife outside of their preferred wildlife cause. Like an over all blanket way of doing things because it benefits their species of choice. But when you apply that blanket of say logic or way of management it can and does affect the rest of the eco-system around it. For every action there is a reaction, a chain of events sometimes not seen or even realized till a much later time, the domino effect. The recent wolf issues is a prime example of that, in all the haste to re-introduce this species, major things like how they were to be managed down the road or the effect on other wildlife populations as a whole were in my humble opinion over looked or put on the back burner in the haste to move the agenda forward, basically putting the cart before the horse.

  I guess the biggest thing is not seeing the whole picture. Take for example, here in WI the musky clubs would like to see either catch and release only or a 50” min. size on musky state wide. Sure that would say be a feasible thing when talking large lakes but as whole on every lake, I don’t believe is the way to go because of the other fisheries out there like panfish, walleyes etc. Some lakes would not even beable to sustain that without dire consequences to it’s fishery, you can’t stock pile wildlife and fish included. And I’m glad we have spring hearings with our state DNR for people to voice their pro’s and con’s. so that there is a balance out there. I guess when you look at it, we need to micro manage in a sense to the specific needs of everything as a whole in that particular lake.

  Take for example Trout Unlimited of which I’m a member, but I’m also a member of the WI. Trappers Assoc. as well, you would think that would be a perfect combo and at times it can be. I belong to both because I believe in both, but I do see where there can be improvement in the tunnel vision aspect to widen there perception and knowledge to be more of a benefit not for their respective members but for wildlife as a whole, because it isn’t what we think is best but because we need to do what is best as a whole for the wildlife, not ourselves. Here in WI. The beaver numbers are getting low and have dropped a lot in the last ten years. Here again is an animal that was so numerous in the 80’s that a bounty was put on them and limits were lifted, and left that way after the bounties ended with no fore thought as to what should be done when the beaver get back down to manageable numbers. So now the state is scrambling to figure out a solution to protect the resource. On one hand you have trappers that trap them and want to continue trapping them in years to come and want a little more stringent regulations put in place to limit or eliminate summer trapping of beaver that are causing damage or a more defined definition of what constitutes damage to prevent unnecessary removal of beaver by groups like Trout Unlimited. Trout Unlimited in this state want a zero tolerance for beaver on trout streams, problem is, most streams in WI are trout streams or waters in one category or another.

  Now, the past 3 years I have been involved in a stream restoration project involving a once premier trout water and cold water resource that fed anther major river here. That stream was basically ruined by beaver, but it took beaver 50 years to do it. The beaver turned the 9 miles of stream into a series of ponds that were warmed up to temps like bath water and silt deposits of extreme depths. The beaver had changed that environment considerably. It now no longer provided much needed cold water to it’s larger counterpart down stream, the trout fishery was pretty much destroyed. But on the other hand it now provided homes for a much more diverse set of residents, muskrats, coon, ducks, geese, deer not to mention turtles, clams and a variety of other plants and wildlife, the only thing missing was the fish and cold water. But something else was on the rise a new danger lurking that was right their in front of your face but not seen.

  The beaver were eating themselves out of house and home, the tree line had receded a considerable distance and in order to sustain the beaver the dams would have to become bigger to reach it, flooding out timber and land once it reached the new food source. The other danger that accompanies this scenario is the high risk of disease which would virtually eliminate the beaver there  eventually, plus the nasty stuff that grows in stagnant water. So in reality although it looked like as rugged a country you would ever see and everything was fine, it was basically destroying itself or if looked at it a different way mother nature taking it’s course and changing it to something else. Man has a habit of wanting change now, mother nature takes her time. So, even though the beaver were abundant on that stream, the rest of the state is not like that. So Trout Unlimited comes in to restore the stream to it’s original state, the DNR is involved and trapping is involved and it’s on it’s way to being what it once was. In order to do that the beaver need to be completely removed and dams blown so decades of silt can be flushed from the system, then a management plan to keep beaver out so that it can come back. Which I feel is the way to go in this instance. How ever you now have drastically changed the eco system on that stream and mother nature will adjust itself, ducks and geese will nest on adjoining waters, some muskrats will survive, some move on, bobcats will hang around but surplus ones now will travel in search of a new home and the list goes on.

  Now lets skip on over to another creek 10 miles south that feeds the same large river the one we just cleaned up that feeds the same large river. There’s beaver on it a few dams, but still fairly good flows of water and cold, gravel bottom, lots of trout, etc. Trout Unlimited has a zero tolerance for beaver on trout streams and feels those beaver need to be removed too. BUT, do they really need to be removed. The trout are fine the waters cold, so does it make sense as for the fishery and wildlife around to eliminate the beaver. No not really. I look at it like this, you need that creek left alone and let nature take its course, because you need the diversity to support wildlife that were displaced 10 miles north. Only thing is if it is manged properly like selective trapping the beaver so they don’t totally destroy the stream, you’ll have a longer run not only on it being a healthier stream, but healthier all around for the wildlife around it. Basically farm it. Because if you go at the angle of no beaver on the streams you are creating a more sterile enviroment sustaining less wildlife. It takes years to make a trout stream unproductive from beaver, it really does and I mean 20, 30-40 years. Not a couple. I know of a stream with beaver dams on my dad fished in his teens that I fished as an adult with the same dams in place and the size and fishing was great, until that was cleaned out and beaver removed. So I know it takes a long time for a stream to be a wasteland.

  Now enter the trapper, he wants to see more beaver because part of his income comes from beaver, they would rather see the beaver dams and streams like the plugged up one left alone because it’s a benefit to what he does, just like what the TU guys want done because it benefits what they do. But what really matters here is what’s best as a whole for wildlife and that’s where all of us no matter what association or organization we belong to and our goals as such, need to look at what we do. How does it affect everything else in the grand scheme of things as a whole, because in the end, that’s what matters most for future generations to come. And the unnecessary shock to the system as was seen on the over populated stream to change it back.

  I hope I didn’t come off as condemning, because that’s not what I’m trying to get across, I belong to TU as well as the WI TA and other assoc. as well. And just thought I’d point this type of thing out so we all, no matter what we’re involved in take a better non bias look at what each of our groups are wanting to accomplish and how it affects everything as a whole. Whether we’re for ducks or deer or bears etc. And what is better for the eco-system in the long run.

Thanks for taking the time to read.


  1. Ha! I have been putting off writing a series of posts about "how your favorite outdoor non-profit works" for almost a year now. Out of dread for the backlash, mostly. I have similar thoughts to yours.

    I worked as a biologist for DU for several years, and though I walked in the door with almost a decade of experience in building wetlands (where ducks live), a coworker gave me actual, serious grief because, " haven't built *waterfowl* wetlands - it's not the same." Of course it IS the same - you just make sure the water and plant life accomodate wintering ducks (in our neck of the woods).

    Within DU (at least) that outlook is slowly changing, as they try to take advantage of different types of funding to build wetlands that are primarily for salamanders or shorebirds or what-have-you, but obviously, are still great habitats for ducks. Makes me chuckle, but I am happy that they finally "get it."

    I'll try to come back here and drop you a line when I start my series of posts about this topic. Thanks for breaking the ice!

  2. It's nice to know others see this too. Thats why being in these orgs. is important to like you said starting to see it and making the changes. You've probably heard the saying TU will hire you to kill beaver and DU will pay you to put them back.Getting everyone on the same page is a touchy thing. Keep up the good work, your doing whats best for the outdoors and wildlife as a whole. I was worried about the backlash, but I think if sportsmen and women with common sense really sit down and think about this they will see it.

    Take care.