Someone tried to take public policy into their own hands here in Duluth, trying a line-item veto on the rules protecting the lovely pine forest of Minnesota Point. It’s not going to work.
Minnesota Point is one of Duluth’s more unusual natural areas. It’s a seven-mile-long natural sand bar that crosses the mouth of the St. Louis River and forms the harbor of Duluth and Superior. At the end of the Point is about two miles of undeveloped dunes, beaches and a dramatic tall pine forest.
In 2011, much to the surprise of the dog walkers and bike riders who frequent the end of the Point, signs went up in the pine forest marking off the boundaries and rules of the Minnesota Point Pine Forest Scientific and Natural Area (SNA). It was especially surprising to read the rules that said, among other things, dog walking and bike riding were no longer allowed.
SNA designation is one of the highest levels of protection the State of Minnesota can apply to land. It’s plants first, people second.
So what about those dog walkers? Was this a replay of the creation of the BWCA? Was Big Government coming in and taking away traditional uses of this fabulous natural area, all in the name of the public good?
Within a few weeks of the signs going up, someone took matters into their own hand. On the sign that listed all the prohibited activities, someone had taken a jackknife and carefully scratched out both “dog walking” and “picnicking.” That’s a little like plugging your ears and singing “La la la la la, I can’t HEAR you” when your parents told you to clean your room. Making the text illegible doesn’t change the rule; public process does.
As it turns out, the administrators of the SNA program within the Minnesota DNR are not dog haters. They fully intend that on-leash dog walking will be allowed, and they even admit that the rule was a mistake. They will go through a public process to change the general SNA rules for this specific property. They’ve done the same thing to allow everything from berry picking to shorefishing in other SNAs. There will be a public meeting. And a comment period.
Better to attend a public hearing than to try your own jackknife line-item veto.
This post originally appeared in Hindsight: The Minnesota 2020 Blog