Conservation Commission Faces Legislative Attacks over Feral Hogs

Most people pay no attention to state politics. Your life is full. I get it. Mine is too. But if you care about the quality of life in your local community, state and country, but do not engage at all in the process of making the laws by which you are governed, then you should heed what the Greek philosopher, Plato, said, “One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

Once again, here in the great state of Missouri, conservation is under legislative attack. There has been a couple of years reprieve from the onslaught of legislation brought forth by disgruntled legislators who were unable to pass laws easing regulations on captive deer operations. But it appears the peace has ended. Today, the rallying cry for destroying the greatest state-based model of conservation our country has ever known is feral hogs. And the new self-appointed, anti-conservation champion is state representative Chris Dinkins.

First of all, let’s just acknowledge how ridiculous it is that Feral Hogs are even an issue. Feral hogs are an invasive species that have no place on our landscape. They are an incredible nuisance. They destroy land. The decimate crops. They spread disease. They ruin watersheds. They outcompete native wildlife for food. They destroy ground nests. Feral hogs are a serious problem and they need to be eradicated. Period.

But some people like to hunt them. There is a hound culture in the Ozarks that goes back centuries. If you have ever read the book, “Where a Red Fern Grows,” then like me, you can understand the deep connection to hunting with hounds. The rolling echo of a hound bawling through the hollow is a beautiful sound. But historically, those hunts were for raccoons and coyotes, both native predators that hunters with hounds help control the populations of. That’s what hounds need to be used for hunting today. Not hogs.

Somewhere along the way, feral hogs were thrown into the mix. And some bad players started seeding new populations of feral hogs around the Ozarks. A culture of hog hunting was born, leading to a supply and demand situation with hogs being released to chase. Now we have a serious problem, and because of the activity of those who created the problem, government has had to step in with stringent regulations to fight the increasing detriments of hogs and the damage they cause to native wildlife and their habitats, along with private property damage and agricultural losses. This includes banning feral hog hunting on public lands, both state and federal, which is necessary for two reasons. 

The first reason being the need for professional trappers to be left to do their job without the interruption of hog hunters running and scattering sounders across the landscape. The second being an attempt to end the culture of hog hunting, so the releasing of feral hogs onto to our public lands, which spill onto private lands, will stop. Without a demand there will be no supply. 

The small but vocal minority of people who are demanding the legislature burn down the MDC, because their love for hog hunting has been attacked, want you to believe they are trying to kill every pig on the landscape. That their mission is eradication. I assume you grasp the reality of the situation, and understand these folks are more interested in the fun they have chasing and shooting hogs than they are in preforming a civic duty pertaining to the protection of native wildlife and landscapes.  

The USDA, MDC and Pioneer Forest have banned hog hunting. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is collecting public comment now, and we can only assume will soon ban hog hunting, as well. The Missouri Pork Association supports the ban, as they fear the spread of disease from feral hogs. But state representative Chris Dinkins believes all of those agencies, armed with all of their scientists, are wrong. That President Trump’s USDA is wrong. So here is what she has done about it. 

She has filed bills to both eliminate the Conservation Sales Tax and to change the entire makeup of the Conservation Commission. She is proposing to defund Conservation because they are doing their job of conserving our wild land for the native species that are supposed to live there. So now your tax dollars are being spent on legislation aimed at destroying the system that has made Missouri hands down one of the greatest fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation destinations in the country. Because of feral hogs. This is not a joke. It’s an unbelievable waste of time and resources. Your tax dollars are being spent on personal vendettas rooted in ignorance and selfishness. 

Representative Dinkins has found support in Facebook silos where she panders with questions, like, “What happened to ‘We the People’?” You see the hypocrisy of the statement and others like it, is that “We the People” is working just fine. There are 6-million of us Missourians. Try for a second to imagine how many of those 6-million men, women and children are feral hog hunting supporters. The vast, vast majority of “We the People” understand the reasoning as to why these vermin must be eradicated. This is actually a great example of democracy at work. 

Folks like Josh Hunt may not agree. He engaged in a debate on a MDC Facebook page thread where he complained, “the Missouri Department of Conservation is just one more government organization ran by over-educated people with no real grasp on what they are doing.” Mr. Hunt’s answer I suppose is less-educated folks managing our state’s resources. I, for one, kind of like having educated folks with wildlife degrees and years of professional training managing our state’s wildlife. 

If Representative Dinkins were to have her wish, and she leads the elimination of the Conservation Sales Tax, you’re going lose so much of what matters to you. If you like to crappie fish any of our state’s reservoirs, then plan on fewer brush piles being placed for habitat. If you enjoy deer hunting, don’t plan on hunting nearly as many acres of well-managed public lands. If you appreciate all the free boat ramps we have in Missouri, get ready to pay when you launch like they do in so many other states. If you enjoy visiting urban nature centers, or walking trails in natural areas, or having properly managed forest and prairie habitats where you watch birds, plan on those locations being diminished. 

With 6-million Missourians, conserving our natural resources is no easy task. There are so many specific interests in the outdoors from fishing and hunting, to camping and hiking, to wildlife watching and wildflower growing. We all want our issue to be front and center. But when we step back for a moment and take a look at the big picture, I don’t know how anyone can not see how fortunate we are to have the incredible resources managed by the MDC that citizens of other states could only dream about. 

If you feel like me, then you need to step up. Take five minutes to contact your state representative and let them know you support conservation and are not interested in losing all the resources you care about. Especially over an issue as asinine as feral hogs.

See you down the trail…

Pic: Feral hogs are an invasive species that have spread across the Ozarks and must be eradicated to protect native wildlife and habitat. 

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Sportsmen have many reasons to be thankful this time of year