Outdoors enthusiasts - from hunters and anglers to birders, hikers, canoeists, naturalists and others - need to pay attention to an all-important if brief indoor activity on Tuesday - voting in the local, state, and national elections.
Conservation of the land, water and air and the wild creatures that share it with us is an ultimate, unifying cause and it is our responsibility to remember it when we choose our representatives and decide various issues.
How will your township trustees vote on zoning that piece of remaining wild land? Will incoming state lawmakers see it your way with protecting wild streams? Will Congress in Washington, try finally, to do something substantive about the Great Lakes? Your vote Tuesday will help decide who is making which decisions about your natural life.
You still have through Monday night to educate yourself about the candidates, their pledges and stances on issues, and specific issues on your particular ballot. Web sites and newspaper and magazine accounts abound with details not seen in ugly, slap-dash television ads that insult the intelligence and stretch the truth to the breaking point.
If you have not registered to vote or do not plan to vote, you have no right to complain about the government you get.
That outdoors types carry weight with politicians is easily evidenced, for example, in the governor's races in both Ohio and Michigan.
In Ohio both Republican Ken Blackwell and Democrat Ted Strickland have pledged strong support of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, including keeping hands off the wildlife fund - the repository for fishing, hunting, and trapping license and fee revenue that is supposed to be dedicated to exclusive use by the Ohio Division of Wildlife's programs.
Each man also has agreed he would sign a streamlined concealed-carry weapons proposal and each basically supports a buyout of remaining commercial fishing licenses on Lake Erie, among other issues. But it is up to each voter to decide how such stances fit in with the bigger picture of a candidate and personal values.
In Michigan both incumbent Democrat Jennifer Granholm and her Republican challenger for the governor's seat, Dick DeVos, agree that Michigan's hunters should be permitted to hunt the nation's most numerous gamebirds, the mourning dove. Both are catering to the sporting vote, even though the issue itself, Proposal 3, will be decided by voters, not the gubernatorial contestants.
In 2004 Michigan became the 41st state to allow dove hunting via a bill signed by Gov. Granholm. But anti-hunting organizations funded a signature drive that puts the issue on the ballot.
Dove hunting is a much rehashed issue, though its opponents, many of them with national backing, have not given up in Michigan even though the hunting is based on sound science and regulated use of a renewable resource.
As the North Woods Call, a biweekly sportsmen's newspaper succinctly summed in an editorial, "If you can justify a ban on dove hunting you can do the same with virtually all other game species." Still, voters will decide the question Tuesday.
Other such issues abound for outdoors-minded voters. In northwest Ohio's Sandusky and Seneca counties, for example, issues are on the ballot to support county park districts.
Nonhunters in the outdoors community can readily be understood to want to support parks, but sportsmen should know, for example, that hunting and fishing opportunties are afforded by both park districts.
So it goes, Find out what's happening in your backyard. Do your homework this weekend. Vote Tuesday.
Or don't complain when the green world is gone.
Today is a big day for up to 250,000 Ohio hunters. It is the opener for cottontail, rabbit, ring-necked pheasant, and bobwhite quail hunting seasons.
Rabbit hunting continues through Feb. 28 and pheasant through Jan. 7. Quail hunting runs through Nov. 26 and is limited to 16 extreme southern counties. The rabbit and pheasant seasons are closed during the gun-deer season, Nov. 27 through Dec. 3, as well as during the gun-deer weekend, Dec. 16 and 17.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife is releasing some 15,000 ring-necked pheasants on 29 public hunting areas statewide this fall.
Remaining scheduled release dates were yesterday and Nov. 9 and 22. Areas to receive stockings in northwest Ohio include Killdeer Plains in Wyandot County, Resthaven in Erie County, Willard in Huron County, Maumee State Forest in Lucas County, Oxbow in Defiance County, and Turkeyfoot in Henry County.
For other details consult the annual digest of hunting regulations, available free where licenses are sold, or visit on-line www.ohiodnr.com.
Williams and Defiance counties remain the best bets for hunting wild birds, according to Wildlife District 2. Those two counties have the best remaining habitat, which includes extensive Conservation Reserve Program or CRP set-aside land. Be reminded that all hunting on private land may be done only with landowner permission.
Among public lands holding wild birds in Williams County are La Su An, Fish Creek, and Parkersburg.
For details on state public hunting areas, obtain a free copy of a foldup, roadmap-size publication, Ohio Public Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife Viewing Areas from the state at the above-mentioned Web address or by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE, or District 2, 419-424-5000.
A fund-raising luncheon to benefit the Nikki Meifert Endowment Fund in the School for Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University is set for tomorrow noon to 2 p.m. at Outback Steakhouse, 5200 Monroe St.
Ms. Meifert, 21, died in February after being struck by a car while riding her bicycle in a crosswalk in October, 2005.
She was a 2002 graduate of Northview High School and a senior at OSU studying forestry and wildlife.
The fund is to provide scholarships for students studying wildlife and for internships with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The ODNR is providing matching funds for the endowment up to $25,000.
Tickets are available from the Meifert family 419-474-2540, or St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Woodley Road, 419-475-7054.