Lately, the media and just about everybody has been focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the many and large protests about the killing of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. While our attention has been mostly on those issues, it seems as if the poobahs in this state are going about their usual pursuits of screwing up the environment and kowtowing to those who like to shoot things.

For example, the Missouri Department of Conservation is proposing a hunting season on black bears.

While the State of Missouri did not stock these mammals, Arkansas did — and bears don’t know where the state line is. A number crossed over into this state and have found the Missouri Ozarks to their liking.

The goal, according to news releases from the Conservation Department, is to limit the population while at the same time preserving a small number for shootings by future generations. Oh, yeah, and an additional goal is to prevent the bears from becoming a nuisance, robbing garbage cans and breaking into unoccupied cabins and houses.

That is so much poppycock. The bear population in this state is quite low and is limited mostly to a few counties near Arkansas. As to nuisances, there are ways to deal with overly zealous bears other than indiscriminately shooting innocent bears.

To add to the concerns, the proposed bear hunting season could possibly involve dogs and also could possibly allow baiting (wherein something that bears would consider a tasty morsel could draw them in). The Conservation Department has not ruled out either of these scenarios. Additionally, female bears that are feeding their young via lactation could be shot, leaving their cubs to starve to death.

While there is an old joke about twisting around the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to the effect that “arming bears” would be allowed, actually there is not much defense to a high-powered, long-range rifle. While no one that I know of is proposing that rifles be distributed to bears, it is definitely not sporting to shoot a mammal that is not at all threatening to a hunter that is maybe a 1,000 feet or more away.

It appears to even the casual observer that the Conservation Department is placing people with weapons above all other users.

The department’s own studies show that no-impact users, such as those who observe wildlife, far outnumber those who are high-impact and like to shoot things. Then, there’s the low-impact users such as anglers, who are rising in numbers. The Conservation Department, to its credit, does have programs that cater to no- and low-impact sports, but it continues, in spite of dwindling numbers, to allow shooting sportspersons to have much sway. Income on high-impact users funds the department.

As the Bible tells us, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11). Maybe the Conservation Department needs to follow that edict rather than allowing a small number of hunters to decimate the small population of bears, allow hunting with dogs, putting out bait and the killing of lactating females.

About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

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