November 2018
From Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

The Vocal Minority ... I Hope

I certainly hope the happy people just don’t take the time to comment.

I’m quite sure that it’s always been the case that complainers are much more vocal than satisfied people. I don’t know if it’s getting worse or if I’m just noticing it more after almost six years of sitting behind this desk, but it seems like everyone is unhappy about something these days. At least in years past, if you wanted to voice your concern you either had to take the time to write a letter and put it in the mailbox or communicate personally with someone on the phone. Both required time and planning. Typically, those two factors caused the upset individual to sit down, think about the issue, and prepare a proper response. In many cases, this diffused the issue.

Fast-forward to today. Everything is easy and instantaneous. Facebook biologists and email philosophers are everywhere. In many cases their unsolicited wisdom or temper tantrum is shared anonymously. And they all have something in common: "WHAT ABOUT ME AND MY NEEDS?" They may attempt to blow smoke up our skirt that it’s all about the resource, but when it boils down to the truth, it’s all about "ME." I’ll be your best friend and support the Department’s stance on an issue or a new program if it doesn’t negatively impact me.

A perfect example of this was presented at a recent Forever Wild Land Trust Board meeting. During the public comment portion of the meeting, a concerned citizen stepped up to the microphone to address the board. In an extensive and eloquent monolog, the Forever Wild program was praised for all that it does to provide public access to great hunting lands and preservation of many ecologically significant areas throughout the state. Then came the real reason for addressing the board: "But, please don’t buy the so-and-so property because it joins my land." And, there you go, I’ll support your program if it doesn’t impact me.

While working the WFF booth at a deer show this year, I overheard this quote concerning the carcass regulation, "I wish y’all were more interested in protecting the deer herd than trying to write hunters tickets!" Do you think that guy hadn’t put two and two together and understood that prohibiting unprocessed carcasses from being brought back into the state to lessen the probabilities of CWD being introduced into Alabama’s deer herd was looking after the herd? I can assure you, the thought of making money by issuing citations to hunters wasn’t even a remote consideration in drafting this regulation. Just an FYI for everyone, less than 3 percent of the annual WFF budget is derived from fines levied for hunting violations. Protecting the number-one game animal in Alabama was the sole reason behind this regulation. Deer hunting is not only a time-honored tradition in Alabama, but it also provides a food source for many in our state and a $1.3 billion stimulus to the Alabama economy.

In a recent email, sent to everyone with a ".gov" behind their address, one Alabama resident was extremely upset that opening day of turkey season had been moved from March 15 to the third Saturday in March. Here is a quote from the email: "I’m personally not concerned about the hunter who isn’t off work until Saturday, when the season opens up during the week. If it mattered to that guy, he could schedule his vacation time accordingly like the rest of us do that enjoy weekday hunting. My children’s spring break normally coincides with the 15th opener. I know that all school district calendars are not the same, but it matters to us. Children’s competitive spring sports; baseball, softball, soccer, dance and cheer almost all involve weekend travel these days." 

At least this guy had the guts to admit he wasn’t worried about anything or anyone other than himself and his family. He didn’t try to sugarcoat it by pretending he was worried about how the change would impact our state turkey population. I wish all complaints were this transparent and straightforward. It really makes the responses we provide simpler to craft.

Another criticism in an email concerning the move of opening day of turkey season stated, "We should be able to trust the DCNR to make decisions on behalf of our hunters which help ... not hurt them.  Yet, in making these types of decisions it seems very few (if any) hunters are consulted before making many decisions which affect them and feedback from these kinds of decisions seem to be ‘swept under the rug.’"   Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Our job is to be the responsible steward and manage, protect, conserve, and enhance the wildlife and aquatic resources of Alabama for the sustained benefit of the people of Alabama; that, in fact, is our mission statement. The key word is sustainable. That means now and for future generations, not just for me and my wants and needs and to heck with everyone else! While we certainly value our constituents, we cannot manage resources based simply on their desires, especially as satisfying them all is an impossible task. In today’s instant-gratification society, it is imperative that we, WFF, look out for the resource because many hunters are only looking out for themselves.  Not what is best for the game they pursue, but only what is best for themselves. 

Thankfully, our founding fathers thought more about the good of the people than themselves. Our brave men and women in our military have sacrificed for the good of the country and not just for themselves. I’m sincerely hoping that there are many more hunters who are genuinely interested in the health of our natural resources than we hear from. If there aren’t, the natural resources we hold so dear are all headed in the direction of the dodo bird.



Chuck Sykes is director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.