A Minot Daily News article this week reminded me of something I’ve noticed about myself for a number of years now— I’m perhaps a bit more of an environmentalist at heart than I once thought I was. And I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.
As is pointed out in the article, it seems a number of songbird species are in decline here on the Northern Plains. Take the Western Meadowlark, for example— our State Bird:
“Meadowlarks are not completely gone, but there’s no arguing their numbers have gone drastically downhill for several years. The morning melodies they produce, a once common sound for anyone spending time outdoors, is now a fading memory. Many North Dakotans today have never heard a meadowlark.”
Perhaps you’ll disagree, but I think this is a sad thing.
I still remember the day I realized I was more of an environmentalist at heart than I had thought. My father and I were visiting an old friend of his. This man was in the waning years of his life. He was a lifetime farmer and rancher. Somehow the discussion turned to the farming practices of the day in comparison to those of yesteryear. And that’s when he let loose a bit.
I wasn’t accustomed to seeing him so passionate. He was an extremely mild-mannered gentleman. But he expressed, in no uncertain terms, that the number of birds, rabbits, and other wildlife around his area was far greater in the days before his neighbors started using pesticides. This man maintained organic farming methods until the day he parked his tractor for the last time.
My intention in sharing that certainly isn’t to demonize the man’s neighbors— or others like them. I totally get it that folks are just trying to make a living, doing the best they can. But his comments affected me. The experience caused me to stop and wonder if we can do a little better when it comes to our stewardship over the land we own or occupy? That was over twenty years ago, and I still have moments when I find myself asking the same question.
There’s also the issue of tolerance for wildlife. And I’ll fully admit that my degree of tolerance for some animals is far greater than it might be for some other folks.
Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to draw a once-in-a-lifetime North Dakota elk tag. While locating property to hunt on, one landowner made it very clear that he was not a fan of the large cervid. “If I had my way, we’d kill every elk in North Dakota,” he said. For him, tolerance of elk shouldn’t even be a consideration. No, instead, they should all be dead.
This is just one example. There are others. Moose, pronghorn, turkey, and even deer will often result in expressions of intolerance for these species. And let’s be honest, this is a major factor when the North Dakota Game & Fish Department makes its management recommendations for the variety of wildlife we have in the state.
Harmful pesticides and intolerance for wildlife aren’t the only things that bring me a tinge of sadness. I’ll also admit that while Bakken Oil Country has provided this state its share of blessings, I’ve also had those moments of nostalgia for the “good ‘ol days” that preceded the boom. Places I once hunted turkey and deer have now been replaced by roads, oil pads, and pump jacks.
Now, lest you think I’m going the way of the extreme environmentalist, it just isn’t so. Heck, even wind and solar industries have serious drawbacks to them. My point isn’t to demonize one industry over another. I understand that there’s pros, cons, and an inevitable trade-off to be had for living in 2019.
What I’m trying to get at is this— I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to ask questions, and to try and figure out ways to live in our modern world, while doing our absolute best to minimize the impact we have on our ecosystems.
Do I think government is the answer to finding better ways to improve man’s relationship with the world around us? Absolutely not. I can assure you that I won’t be supporting the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Bernie Sanders any time soon. Nor will I be camping out on the steps of our nation’s Capitol demanding passage of the Green New Deal. I’m also quite confident the Earth won’t cease to exist in 12 years.
Having said that, I simply think that we can do better. My hope is that we can see ourselves as stewards of this beautiful planet that we all live on. I think such a view will make North Dakota — and the world — a better place for all of us and our posterity who will come after.