Future of Hunting conference held

The fourth in a series of “Future of Hunting” conferences was held at Bismarck’s Ramada Inn Dec. 14. Mike McEnroe, president of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation, was the event organizer. Recently he spoke with The Minot Daily News about the conference.

MDN – The three previous Future of Hunting conferences drew a variety of people from throughout the state. Did that interest continue for number four?

McEnroe – I suppose we had 50 to 60 people, pretty evenly divided. The overall consensus was that this conference was the best one ever for information and discussion. Erik Lindstrom from Ducks Unlimited updated us on the status of the farm bill. They are putting some things back in it for compliance, like swamp buster and sod saver.

Steve Adair gave us an update on the Clean Water and Parks initiated measure. They need about 27,000 signatures by early August.

MDN – Our landscape has been changing and our wildlife populations appear to be changing as well. Was that addressed?

McEnroe – Game and Fish showed that (Private Land Open to Sportsmen) acres are down and (Conservation Reserve Program acreage) is disappearing. We are starting to see wetland and road ditch burning, which we’ve never seen before. Cattail sloughs are being plowed in the fall, which we’ve never seen before. I think it’ll be real tough to maintain 1985 levels of hunting with less than 1985 habitat.

MDN – You mentioned CRP, which has been touted as a very important component to maintaining wildlife populations. True?

McEnroe – The good news in the last 25 years was that the state had 3 million acres of CRP. The bad news is it masked a lot of other things that has happened out there, losses of native grasses, shelterbelts, farmsteads and the like. CRP was a buffer.

We do have 700,000 acres of state school land, 98 percent of which is open to public hunting. Some are overgrazed, some are not. The overgrazing is probably not a big issue.

MDN – Are any more conferences scheduled?

McEnroe – Yes. We asked and the group said, do it. We’ll hold Future of Hunting 5 on May 31 in Bismarck at the Ramada Inn. One thing we’ll do is evaluate the progress of the initiated measure. We hope to have our core group and some different people.