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Woodland Trails: Urbanization threatens St. Croix County wildlife

Trophy. It means different things to different people. Aldo Leopold talked about a trophy as, "The pleasure they give is, or should be, in the seeking as well as in the getting. The trophy, whether it be a birds egg, a mess of trout, a basket of mushrooms, the photograph of a bear, the pressed specimen of a wild flower, or a note tucked into the cairn on a mountain peak, is a certificate. It attests that its owner has been somewhere and done something -- that he has exercised skill, persistence, or discrimination in the age old feat of overcoming, outwitting or reducing-to-possession. These connotations which attach to the trophy usually far exceed its physical value."

Leopold went on to say that all of that has been changed from a simpler time to a time when mass-pursuit has changed the simpler time to what is often a high-pressure game. It all started when the car was invented and modern sportsmen started to expand their range. As automobile traffic improved, boat and trailers took anglers to new destinations. Fish, game and even quiet places became harder to find.

Wildlife management sprang into existence as an answer to the building pressure and increasing numbers of anglers and hunters. Fish were raised in hatcheries. Wild game was brought in from other states and nations and released. Some like carp were an utter failure while the Chinese ring-neck pheasant were an astounding success.

A natural follow-up to wildlife management was environmentalism and conservation. Muskies Inc. and Ducks Unlimited are great success stories. Now the fight is not so much for wildlife but for wild places. Land is the key. We need land to grow the game and land for them to nest and survive cold winters like we are having this year. It's all a part of the wild game that draws us to the great outdoors and the trophies we seek.

But the urbanization of man and land is knocking loudly at all of our doors. As we Woodburyize St. Croix County, so much will be lost. In the not-too-distant future we will have solid houses and business from Hudson to River Falls. And it won't stop there either. Ellsworth will soon be swallowed up as the Woodburyization spreads south. It is already sucking in Roberts and New Richmond. It won't be long until all of the wild places will be gone and cement and blacktop will cover it all. Look to Europe to see our future. Hunting and fishing is only for the wealthy there.

But as the unstoppable explosion of humanity devours the land, wildlife hangs on today. In some cases it explodes. Wild geese populations continue to grow and aggravate golfers, to my chagrin. Deer populations continue to rise in city limits. Hudson has a great deer herd. Some city governments allow you to hunt them inside city limits with bow and arrow in places like St. Croix Falls. Will Hudson, New Richmond and River Falls follow that trend as nuisance deer complaints continue to expand?

As all of the changes in land and wildlife occur, advertisements that entice people to come explore the Kinni and Willow don't do anything to help the resource. All the publicity brings beer cans, candy wrappers and noise. On the other side of the fence are people who support wild places by not trying to make money off them. They won't sell the land or shove neophytes into the wild who have no investment in its future of the land and water.

We have lost the feeling of isolation and peace and quiet that western Wisconsin once promised us. Plant life is damaged by the masses. Trash and leftover fishing line is found around every bend. All of the people dilute the quality of trips to find trophies, be they flora, fauna, fish or quietness. To some, the land today might still qualify as scenic and quiet while to others it is overcrowded and spoiled.

Leopold said, "Recreation is not the outdoors but our reaction to it. Daniel Boone's reaction depended not only on the quality of what he saw, but the quality of the mental eye with which he saw it."

Each person has to search their own heart to find their trophies and enjoy the recreation they find. For as Leopold said it best, "Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind."