Editorial-Opinion May 2005

Steve Burch | May 1, 2005

It is amazing to think of the efforts sportsmen have gone to, and the positive results that appear to be coming from those efforts.

The world is different, the world is better, because sportsmen showed up, stood up, and spoke up.

Let me give you four examples.

The National Park Service (NPS) administers the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA), which is essentially the 48-mile stretch of trout stream running from Lake Lanier to I-285.

Last June, the NPS unveiled a plan that would have kicked people off the land; hikers and bikers and horse- back riders, but particularly fishermen. The NPS invited the public to comment on the various alternatives of the plan, to pick from alternate A, B, C, or D.

At the end of the first meeting, a wide range of sportsmen understood that the only choice presented to them was essentially to select which form of suicide they preferred because all NPS alternatives seriously reduced fishing access to the recreational area.

So that night, this group decided not to comment on the merits of any of the alternatives, but to simply reject the entire effort of the NPS and send them back to the drawing board.

That was a very bold step. It worked.

The NPS is now shopping around its new Alternative E. They haven’t shown it to anyone yet, but they have created a paper describing what they say is in the new plan and are asking for comments on the ideas they have shared. I was a part of one of those meetings. I have seen their ideas and in direction and intention, I am encouraged by what they are saying.

The new alternative is expected to be unveiled sometime in late June or July. Then we will know more about our progress.

Now is a great time to reflect on what these sportsmen have given us. If you enjoy being able to go fishing in the river, thank a sportsman who showed up. Had they not showed up, one of the original alternatives would now be in effect, restricting your access rather than collecting dust.

This fall, you will be able to apply for deer hunts at Red Top Mountain, Hard Labor Creek and Richard B. Russell state parks. If you apply, thank the sportsmen and women who showed up that November, 2003, night in Cartersville to speak up for hunting and professional wildlife management on state park land.

Again, much remains to be done, and we can’t count these chickens yet. But we can say with certainty that the preferred plan of state parks was changed from chemical birth control to hunting. This change serves wildlife, habitat, parks and sportsmen well.

Building on this success, the effort to outlaw bowhunting in Roswell, once thought to be unstoppable, now is being considered in a new light.

A large part of the reason Roswell is rethinking its position on banning bowhunting is because state parks is setting the example. So you can see that the actions of the people in Cartersville then are having an impact on decisions made in Roswell now.

Like the other examples, the final result in Roswell is not yet known. But the only reason the final result is not yet known is because sportsmen showed up, stood up, and spoke intelligently to our leaders with sufficient logic and in sufficient numbers that the leaders realized that a different course needed to be considered.

There is one other place where sportsmen stood up and made a difference. The proposal to increase the doe limit from 10 to 15 was shouted down at public hearings around the state. In a letter to the DNR Board dated April 12, 2005, WRD Director Dan Forster wrote:

The public strongly opposed the recommendation to increase the antlerless bag limit from 10 to 15. Conversely, there was almost no support for the increase. In response to public input… (we)… remove this action item from the plan.

So, in response to public input from sportsmen, the National Park Service, our state parks, the City of Roswell and our own WRD is listening. Why? Because sportsmen showed up, stood up and spoke up.

We have answered the question about whether we can make a difference. We can.

The new question is, what next would you like to improve?

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