Leier: In past 20 years, North Dakota outdoors has evolved
One of the consequences of having four distinct seasons is that we slot various activities during certain times of year. Spring is big for graduations and a few weddings, while in summer we cram and squeeze in vacations, long weekends and more we...
One of the consequences of having four distinct seasons is that we slot various activities during certain times of year. Spring is big for graduations and a few weddings, while in summer we cram and squeeze in vacations, long weekends and more weddings, along with family and class reunions.
This year it's my turn for a class reunion, but this column isn't about which classmates are living across the globe or who has lost the most hair or weight. I'm thinking back to how our North Dakota outdoors has changed since I graduated from Valley City High School in May of 1990.
Twenty years ago North Dakota was praying for rain. That dry cycle wouldn't lose its grip until 1993.
In 1990, Devils Lake was dealing with a Lake Emergency Management Council to keep water in the lake. Game and Fish biologists began to worry that a significant winterkill was imminent if the water level continued to recede.
You read correct. Devils Lake did not have an outlet then. In fact, state officials were pondering the feasibility of a channel or pipeline to bring Missouri River water in to Devils Lake.
Today, the expansion of Devils Lake that began in 1993 is well documented. The swelling of the lake has provided excellent habitat and fishing for pike, walleye and white bass. The challenge now is not how to keep water in, but dealing with the excess. From a fishing and fishery standpoint the issue is keeping boat ramps high and dry enough to provide access.
This fall North Dakota will have significantly fewer deer licenses for the first time in years. I can remember when the late Game and Fish Director Dean Hildebrand hammered home to hunters that North Daktoa wildlife was in the middle of the good old days.
That's evident now as even with fewer deer licenses in 2010, it's still about 50,000 more than the 66,000 licenses offered 20 years ago.
So when the drawing is held and some hunters don't get a buck license in the unit they want, remember that the North Dakota deer herd remains strong.
One last note. Twenty years ago in the fall of 1990, North Dakota hunters bagged 174,000 roosters, or more than twice as many as in 1980. While the statewide bag for 2009 is not yet finalized, it will likely be less than 2008, but will still look awful good compared to 20 years ago.
As I set off for my reunion, I'll be the guy wearing a baseball cap to keep from burning the exposed scalp, which has lost some of its cover since 1990. But I'll also have a smile on my face now and this fall, as my wife, kids, and the fish and wildlife in North Dakota are all in pretty good shape.
Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leier's blog can be found online