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It's all about guns, unfortunately

by Mike McFeely

Guns stir passion. That much I have figured out in my 5 years in talk-radio. Suggest that perhaps, maybe, possibly, conceivably, feasibly we could find a way to have fewer unnecessary shooting deaths in this nation, and the next thing you know a listener is calling to ask me why I want to take everybody's guns away.

Which is not what I said, of course.

Then the next phone call will be from a person saying they support the Second Amendment and I should, too.

And I say I do support the Second Amendment.

That leads to the next phone call, which comes from a person who says I must not support the Second Amendment if I support President Obama because President Obama wants to take everybody guns away and ...

You get the idea.

And I'm always left wondering "what if?"

What if outdoorsmen put as much passion toward conserving or restoring our wetlands as they did toward fighting a phony "they're going to take our guns away" fight?

Could a state like Minnesota stop and possibly reverse decades of draining and plowing sloughs, so it could provide habitat to ducks and pheasants and geese and deer? Western and southwestern Minnesota has lost more than 90 percent of its original wetlands.

What if outdoorsmen were as worried about clean water as they are about guns?

Again in Minnesota, a recent study showed the state's lakes are becoming increasingly polluted from not only obvious sources like wastewater treatment and rapid development, but in more subtle ways. A long-range study showed the state's lakes and rivers contain chemicals like DEET, prescription drugs and even cocaine.

What if outdoorsmen were as worried about the effect of the oil boom on western North Dakota's environment as they were about whether an AR-15 fits the definition of an assault rifle?

A pipeline break  near Tioga spilled more than 20,000 barrels of crude (800,000+ gallons) into a wheat field. The spill apparently happened weeks ago, yet neither the governor of North Dakota nor its citizens knew about it until Wednesday.

What if outdoorsmen were as up in arms about the loss of good habitat as they were about arming everybody in the nation?

North Dakota's acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program, a federal program that pays landowners to keep land out of production and in grassland, will dwindle to 1 million acres in 2015 from a high of 3 million acres in 2006. The projected loss of CRP gets worse near 2020, possibly down to a total of 200,000 acres statwide. There are many reasons for this, mostly high commodity and cash-rent prices, but with a surplus of $6 billion (and growing) from almighty oil the state should be finding myriad ways to protect some of this grassland.

Where is the passion for these important topics? Would it not behoove sportsmen to passionately support the protection/restoration of habitat that will guarantee good hunting far into the future? Would future good hunting more strongly assure the protection of the Second Amendment, because hunters have always been a strong advocate for gun rights?

A common theme I hear from listeners: What good is it to have a bunch of wildlife if we aren't going to have guns to hunt?

Easy answers:

1) Nobody is going to take away your guns. That has never been anybody's agenda. You've been duped by the National Rifle Association into believing that, and you fell for it.

2) Let me turn it around. In the case of sportsmen, what good is it to have guns if you have no wildlife to hunt?

Can imagine the hunting paradise North Dakota, South Dakota and western Minnesota would be for generations if sportsmen showed as much -- hell, half as much -- passion for habitat issues as they do for guns?

What if, indeed. 

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)