The Lee County Conservation Board (LCCB) announced this month that it is willing to re-examine its policy regarding the use of permanent duck blinds with help from a new committee.
The announcement follows months of contentious meetings and verbal attacks directed at board members and department staff from opponents of the policy.
The LCCB voted in December 2016 to phase out the use of permanent blinds on conservation-owned land along the Mississippi River ahead of the 2017 hunting season. Members said at the time that the goal was to give all hunters equal access to county land.
That was not enough, though, for a group of local hunters. They wrote letters to the editor, posted to social media, attended conservation board meetings and even county board meetings to voice their displeasure with the decision.
The county board was even asked about its policy regarding conservation board appointments and whether there was a way to remove a member of the LCCB.
“We just got to a point where we weren’t solving any issues,” said Conservation Director Nathan Unsworth. “It was not a problem solving conversation.”
Unsworth said the idea behind the committee is to re-open the lines of communication. He said it will not include members of the LCCB, just himself and local hunters.
“The LCCB has listened to the concerns shared over the past few months by the waterfowl hunting community and is willing to try to find common ground on the issue,” said Unsworth. “The LCCB is willing to explore different ideas and potentially allow permanent blinds on the area most recently purchased by the county, which has been referred to as the ‘island area’ in most of the discussions.”
Unsworth said the 712-acre island area near the Mississippi River channel is the preferred hunting location for most of the hunters who have spoken out about the permanent blinds. He said the land was purchased with general fund money, so there are fewer restrictions from the state or federal governments as to how the land can be used.
Unsworth said people who want to serve on the committee can apply on the conservation board’s website. They will just have to answer a few questions about their hunting practices and why they want to serve.
Unsworth said a few people have signed up already. He said the goal is to have the committee in place by Thanksgiving, meet a few times in December and January and make a recommendation on the use of permanent blinds by February.