Date: 6/19/18 1:38 pm
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Several years ago, a group formed by several natural resource management agencies joined together to work in behalf of recovery of inland nesting Least Terns. One of these efforts was creation of an attractive educational sign asking the public’s help in protecting tern nesting areas. Yesterday, I noticed that the tern sign at the public boat launch ramp at Frog Bayou Wildlife Management Area in the Arkansas River Valley south of Dyer had suffered serious recent gunshot damage. Now visible through the sign is the shallow bay formed by the Arkansas River.

The same people shooting signs could instead be observing a remarkable part of our natural heritage here in The Natural State. They bring shame and dishonor to legitimate firearm use.

The sign itself is trying to encourage anglers, boaters, and others to protect a Federally-listed species, inland nesting Least Terns. They nest on little sandy islands along the Arkansas River. Their nests are easily disturbed and destroyed when boaters haul out for camping and, for example, turn their dogs loose on vulnerable eggs or chicks. They are destroyed when folks ride 4-wheelers through shallow water to reach the islands, then barrel across the sand, presumably unaware of the impact on terns and other wildlife.

Education is one of the ideals of our democratic society. So instead of just making it a difficult-to-enforce Federal and State offense to visit these islands while terns are nesting, the decision was taken to try education, as this sign shows. That is, appeal to the better instincts of those who love the outdoors. We want to believe that if we can reach people with a broad, open-minded message about protecting natural resources, people will respond in a positive manner. I choose to believe this is a useful approach, despite evidence of destroyed terns nests on sandy islands and the repeated shooting at this hopeful sign at Frog (and doubtless elsewhere).

I am reminded of Fayetteville’s native son, former UA-Fayetteville President and US Senator, J. William Fulbright. “The highest function of education is the teaching of things in perspective, toward the purpose of enriching the life of the individual, cultivating the free and inquiring mind, and advancing the effort to bring reason, justice, and humanity into the relations of men and nations.”

I do not think a decently educated person with prospects for a productive life would waste time and ammo, and make illegal use of firearms, destroying hope associated with a sign like this. The shooters need education. Their spirits need some kind of a fundamental tune-up. Until then, all that’s left is enforcement.

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