ESCANABA - Sunday is Independence Day, a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Like Memorial Day, it has taken on varied importance with the traditions of picnics, family gatherings, parades, and of course the local fireworks displays. However we must remember why we celebrate the Fourth of July, from its origin 234 years ago.
What most people seem to recall as being the prime meaning of the document is, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Today there seems to be a lot of confusion over what is a right versus what may be a privilege given us by the majority of the public.
Those who participate in outdoors recreation that include hunting, fishing and trapping, make up but a small share of the overall population. We take advantage of our renewable natural resources not only for pleasure, for some it goes all the way to profit and gain.
Our government is charged with managing our natural resources for all of the citizens. In our state, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE) mission, "is committed to the conservation, protection, management, accessible use and enjoyment of the State's natural resources for current and future generations."
We the users are charged with being stewards of the outdoors, and literally pay for the majority of natural resources management work, yet hold a second seat to making decisions as to what takes place when, only to find resolve in going before either the legislature or the resource managers in seeking change. It is a slow process but remains the best proven system around, anywhere.
It is hard to appreciate in these days of information technology and a society with expectations of instant gratification that is unbearable for some. It seems to also compound the confusion of what then remains a privilege versus a given right.
Most of the regulations we follow as recreational users originated in the halls of the Michigan Legislature, and except for a few areas, these rules remain part of a statutory requirement decided on by our elected state officials.
Our industrial manufacturing base has shrunk to a point that it will probably never be the same. The focus on Michigan Agriculture and Tourism will certainly play a bigger role in supporting our economic well being. In the mean time, like any other industry, the department has been right sizing and doing more with less.
The MDNRE is changing its management structure, having started the process of dividing the state into five regions, bringing focus to local concerns and what should be autonomy in decision making.
While it should speed up the process of making change, it will also put even more responsibility on the shoulders of the license buying natural resource users to demonstrate our awareness and consideration that we again, are a privileged minority of the public even though we pay the lion's share for work being done.
The public has guaranteed us it will not infringe on our efforts by amending our State Constitution and guarding the money we provide from transfer to other uses. Those who choose not to pay, will not see continuation of entitlement programs in the future, because there won't be funding from anywhere else to do it.
Those of us wishing to convey our ethics and traditions outdoors towards the future, will need to recruit young minds to work and develop strategies for resolve of problems we caused or could not consider. It will be needed to keep this pristine homeland that is surrounded by the Great Lakes, available and free from the contaminants of a global economy and infestation of plants and animals.
We'll have to understand even with today's technology, we'll have to deal with the ups and downs of what we have available to us for recreation, given that mother nature still holds the key to overall success. There will never be any absolute guarantees that you'll catch a fish, shoot a buck or trap a beaver.
The important thing to understand is you have earned the privilege of outdoors recreation. The right you hold is the opportunity to pursue it in a responsible manner. The ethics of fair chase and conservation of harvestable populations of game and habitat is what we've worked for to now, and must commit to support.
I'm proud to say I've tried to do just that, and will join with my colleagues in conservation in reflection on the 4th, to know we continue to work as outdoors stewards in support of everyone's Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
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Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications and the Internet Saturday mornings.