(This is an opinion piece from the staff)
I wanted to write a quick note to express some concern over the way the SE Duck Hunting Zone was set this year – and how it may impact hunters in that zone. The people I have been contacted by are not “rich” hunters with clubs or river land, but in fact, hunt public marshes in Linn and Neosho Counties. This was not what a majority of the hunters wanted – and the more we dug into it, the stickier it got.
Wildlife and Parks waterfowl biologists, after extensive data collection and research, recommended a Nov. 3 opening day, so hunters across the unit could have a few weeks to hunt shallow marshes and early migrating waterfowl. This is when what appears to be a “back door deal” comes into play. After numerous conversations with sources close to the situation, it appears that Commissioner Don Budd introduced an amendment to bypass the KDWPT recommendations in favor of starting the season nearly two weeks later and on a Thursday. Many are concerned that this could be born out of a personal agenda by him and friends of his (who happen to be guides in the Neosho River Valley). It passed 4-3, with Chair Gerald Lauber arguing vehemently against it – because it penalized hunters who hunted public or shallow marshes during the early part of the season. It’s certainly no secret – especially to those in the St. Paul and Neosho River Valley area – that the new season structure heavily favors river bottom owners, guides and private water way hunters… and negatively impacts public marsh and wetlands hunters. What are the odds that Commissioner Don Budd has hunting access to land just down from a well-known guide on the Neosho river?
My question to you, readers, taxpayers, is… what is the point of throwing the resources of the KDWPT staff to formulate detailed surveys, distribute them to hunters, and compile the results… not to mention the time to pore over historical data from previous seasons, in an effort to come up with season dates designed to give the best opportunity to the most hunters? And all based on their expert opinions. If they are not going to take the department’s recommendations, not to mention those hunters who took the trouble to fill out those surveys and return them, then what can be said about the Commissioners’ commitment to our past-time? Is this the kind of fiscal responsibility we want to see from those accountable for our tax dollars and responsible for our natural resources?
As even more of a slap in the face, an open forum public meeting to “receive public comment” was held. The commissioners completely disregarded the public comments from those who took the trouble and spent the money to be at the meeting.
What scares me even more is the side effects that this “back door deal” with a commission and the owner of a major guiding service has on the working man – and more importantly – the kids. Did they stop and think about how this will affect them? First off, did we just lose a full generation of young waterfowlers who will miss out on the tradition and passion of Opening Day with dad? I know there is youth season, but my best memories were being one of the guys when the big guns fire. I know some parents will take their kids out on a Thursday morning, but let’s be honest, how many moms are ok with their kids missing school to go hunting? On another note, how many dads – who work for a living – are going to miss the traditional opener because they have to work? How many of those are hunters who only get out on opening weekend, hunters “on the fence”, who may just decide not to buy duck stamps now to go that one weekend of the season, the traditional opener? Almost all the options presented to the commission had a split or a solution to this – but the back door deal that gave the most money to the guides was selected over the working men and their families.
I am not sure, at this point, if there is anything that can be done to remedy this. The benefit that was given to the big money in the Neosho River area at the expense of the rest of the zone should be corrected and the biologist recommendations should have been – and should still be – put in place instead of a personal agenda that was clearly pushed through by a commissioner. This gives a lot of hard working KDWPT employees an undeserved black eye by continuing to give off the perception that BIG money is more important in Kansas than the working man.
If it’s too late this year, then what can be done for future seasons? How can – or will – Don and other members of the council be held accountable, and how can we make sure this doesn’t happen in the future?
It just sucks when personal agendas “happen” with people who have influence. I encourage each one of you to go to KDWPT’s website KDWPT Commissioners Email Addresses and email each one of the commissioners in the left hand column your thoughts of support… or disgust.