ESCANABA - This is Memorial Day Weekend, a holiday designated to honor those who have laid their lives on the line in defense of the freedoms we seem to take for granted. It is hard for some to appreciate how the families of fallen soldiers were forever changed, experiencing a major loss and having to adjust their lives to continue as normally as possible.
Many incorporate this time of year to honor all past family members by visiting cemeteries, placing flags and flowers at grave sites, giving pause to remember them. It is also treated as a time to celebrate the (unofficial) start of summer.
Highways and parks will see an increase of occupancy by campers; fishermen will be on the water as the state-wide opener of largemouth and smallmouth bass season occurs. Cookouts galore will fill the air in neighborhoods as families and friends gather together in fellowship. Again, freedoms we would not have if it were not for those who have gone before us to assure that these United States of America remain the best place to live.
Photo provided by Tim?Kobasic
Successful 2012 Spring turkey season hunter Matt Blavat proudly displays the bird he took with the help of the Wheelin’ Sportsman program along with National Wild Turkey Federation volunteer Jerome Bowden
One of the things I'm grateful for is an abundance of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, what we've had, what we have and what we hope to have in the future.
Thinking back to what we've had, I realize how nice it was to be able to access all sorts of land to hunt, taking for granted that it had always been there without a lot of stringent requirements. I grew into knowing how precious it was and that certain circumstances have occurred in my life that have been cause for change that for some seem more restrictive and make availability less abundant.
Outdoor opportunities are still good and there is no reason on Earth that someone, especially a youngster, can qualify a feeling that "there's nothing to do".
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.
I also appreciate that today we have broader interests as far as public recreation and for that reason, those who manage the outdoors are doing so from a broader perspective, and those who manage forests, either public or private, must also do so with emphasis on the positive side of bio-diversity and expanded use.
So how will we assure that, even though they've changed, the opportunities now enjoyed will still be there in good supply for future generations?
Changes in technology and related needs for woods content have impacted forest, and thus wildlife, habitat management. Massive cuts that disturbed soils and allowed for recruitment of critical habitat have been modified. Low impact harvesters and strategic planning that includes conversion of species seem to have steered away from optimum cover for game. Moreover, private forest land management with emphasis on habitat is lagging behind in many ways.
I give credit to staff from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in administering now the fourth annual private land grants through the Deer Range Improvement Program (DRIP), which is funded from money provided through the purchase of hunting licenses. This part of DRIP is titled the Deer Habitat Improvement Partnership Initiative (DHIPI), and provides up to $50,000 a year for projects that are sponsored by recognized non-government conservation organizations.
This year, six projects totaling $49,235 were awarded; covering wildlife habitat improvements in Alger, Chippewa, Delta, Dickinson, Iron, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft counties.
One unique application was received and awarded in a partnership formed with Upper Michigan Land Management and Wildlife Service, Plum Creek, the National Wild Turkey Federation - Wheelin' Sportsmen Program, and the MDNR.
The joint venture will create and enhance wildlife openings, along with the planting of fruit and nut-bearing trees on five parcels of Plum Creek land in Delta, Menominee and Marquette counties. This project will also create additional opportunities for hunters with disabilities.
What is important to remember here is that many of the participants of Wheelin Sportsmen had the opportunity to recreate outdoors, but due to illness or injury and up until now, did not have the same opportunity. The sponsors of these projects are also assuring those disabled hunters continued opportunities towards the future.
It is also important to understand that while the NWTF is titled as a co-sponsor, they also use the Wheelin Sportsman program to aid disabled hunters pursue deer and bear.
Some of these hunters don't have much of a future in which to look forward because of terminal disease. They will however, go on the rest of their lives with the satisfaction in knowing what they once had has been restored thanks to the participating organizations. Those who will have it in the future may not know what it took to make it possible, but will hopefully participate in at least promoting the availability.
It is fitting for all of us to take time this weekend to pause and remember those who made our freedom possible, those who work to make opportunity for us to enjoy our freedom and those who work to assure both are carried forward in equal proportion.