Renewing Our Mission
A friend of mine recently overheard two young women in a cafeteria line puzzling over the meaning of the words hot dish on a chalkboard menu. The gap in their knowledge alarmed him. "What's happening to our Minnesota traditions?" he asked.
You make certain assumptions about people who live in the same state as you do. Sooner or later, some of those assumptions get challenged-often by a child or a newcomer. Take ice fishing as an example.
Growing up in Minnesota, I occasionally went ice fishing with my dad and brother. I never thought of it as a peculiar way to fish. Years later, friends Jim and Sue invited my husband and me to go ice fishing. Outfitted with a broomstick pole and standing in the middle of a lake north of Bemidji, my New York City-raised husband looked around in disbelief and wondered aloud what the heck we were doing there, shivering and staring into a hole in the ice. Through his eyes, I saw that ice fishing could be a bit goofy.
Last winter my cousin Damon took my husband ice fishing again, and this time Lou had fun because they fished in a cozy pop-up tent. Thanks in part to this handy innovation, this Minnesota tradition is booming. Sales of licenses for fish houses have gone from 85,165 in 1985 to 156,688 last year. Ice-fishing contests are hot too. (See page 10.)
Ice-fishing stories in this issue probably won't stir up controversy. But another outdoor tradition, hunting-featured in the Sept.-Oct. Conservation Volunteer-did draw letters of protest. (See Nov.-Dec.) In this issue you'll find many letters from supporters of hunting. One supporter suggested we print the Conservation Volunteer mission statement.
Especially now as this magazine celebrates its 65th year, reviewing our mission is a good idea. Our mission appears in every issue below the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer nameplate on this page: "A donor-supported magazine advocating conservation and wise use of Minnesota's natural resources."
Admittedly, the statement lacks the catchiness of a line from a Woody Guthrie song, or a moral from Aesop's fables. Yet a clearly stated mission serves as a starting point and a touchstone for informing, guiding, testing, and sometimes reforming behavior.
Reviewing the Conservation Volunteer history, I recently reread the first issue. The October 1940 back cover says: "The purpose of this bulletin is singular. One word-Education-sums up our objective. And we hope through broad educational messages in this journal to stimulate still further public interest in and appreciation for our great natural heritage."
Hunting was part of the department's "broad educational messages" and Minnesota's "great natural heritage." And hunting remains part of our efforts to advocate conservation and careful use of Minnesota's natural resources today.
So what do you do when someone protests or perhaps misunderstands your mission? You keep talking and listening. You debate. If you're a magazine editor, you publish the pros and the cons in the classic debate forum known as letters to the editor.
And you work to put this lively reading into the hands of as many people as possible. Minnesota Conservation Volunteer is one tool to help the DNR convey its conservation messages. And it can be a tool for you as a conservationist too. Invite your neighbors to subscribe. Think especially of children and newcomers to Minnesota, who have yet to learn about the state's amazing natural resources.
And while you're on a mission, consider going a step further and making a New Year's resolution to introduce someone to your outdoor traditions. Invite someone to go hunting or fishing. You'll be giving someone a chance to appreciate Minnesota's great natural heritage.
Kathleen Weflen, editor