The percentage of folks that vote has declined dramatically since the days of Abraham Lincoln. Nowadays, you suppose there’s a sense that their input is meaningless, so they just don’t bother? Might the same be said of DNR’s annual “Sectional” or public meeting circuit whereby outdoor enthusiasts can get some say on issues ranging all the way from the seasons and bag limits to elk restoration or an earlier spring gobbler season for that matter? But the attendance and hosting towns are similarly in decline, so what’s the story?
Having covered this arena for decades, the apathy is palpable, particularly during the recent past when the formerly well attended and lively Logan Area meetings seem to be going through a similar doldrums. The cynicism mounted a few years back when the meetings went from a true public format to the present day “open house” version.
In the past, individuals or sporting groups identified themselves and then gave comment or recommendation if they so desired. Others in attendance could hear what they had to say, see who they were and know who they were representing. The meetings had a set starting time and someone from the press could take notes on various issues and report back on what had transpired. Is this not the intent of a public meeting?
Specific tallies were noted on the sometimes heated attempts to open the bow-hunting only counties to some form of firearm season and a host of other matters. Under the present “open house,” you can come anytime within a two-hour time slot. There to greet you individually is a host of varying DNR staff that has you outnumbered by a wide margin. If you weren’t intimidated or caught up in the Koombayaah of the moment, you could make some suggestions for placement on an easel or submit your written comments as usual on the provided forms.
DNR staff compiles the public input from the statewide meeting circuit then provides the results to the civilian Natural Resource Commissioner. The Commissioners in effect are the DNR’s check and balance on behalf of the license buying public. It then boils down to whether it’s a meaningful process or just going through the motions. To offset that possibility a few years back, several busloads of folks with media accompaniment attended a particular Commission Meeting to make sure that their voices would positively be heard just in case.
As to the duties of a Commissioner, Nelson Bryant, the longtime outdoor columnist of the New York Times had the distinct privilege of serving on those of several states. He was puzzled by the way individual states at times defended whatever they did, right, wrong or indifferent in relation to a neighbor state. Present day cases in point that he undoubtedly would find intriguing include: how can Kentucky just across the Tug Fork from the Logan Area be harboring 11,000 elk to West Virginia’s none, or have a one buck limit to their three or open a spring gobbler season a couple weeks earlier?
Which state lies in the right, wrong or indifferent column? To possibly find out, ask a few questions, provide written comment on these or whatever your own outdoor short list is, please participate in some fashion. The Logan Area Sectional will be held at the Chief Logan State Park Conference Center along Corridor G, Tuesday March 19 from 6-8 p.m.