A very difficult topic is tearing apart outdoor enthusiasts in Mississippi. At issue is the debate over installing more pumps to drain flood waters that are behind the levees and flooding much of the lower Mississippi delta. The annual Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza is taking place this weekend, an event sponsored by the Mississippi Wildlife Federation (the “Federation”), a group that has taken a stand on the impacts of flood control projects impacting habitat in the delta for many decades. There are several vendors and patrons who intend to boycott the event to bring attention to their position. That is unfortunate because this is a such a special place to come together as outdoor enthusiasts. This event kicks off the upcoming Mississippi hunting season and traditionally brings tens of thousands of outdoor loving people together. A few barbs are being thrown and tweeted calling out the Federation as “uncaring” people which, honestly, could not be further from the truth. The Federation was begun in 1946 to promote wildlife. It has always advocated for more outdoor opportunities, more conservation, more wetlands, protecting wildlife, but there are some angry farmers and others directly impacted by this unprecedented flooding that are frustrated. In case you’ve missed it, the Mississippi river has been so high for so long that it has been next to impossible to drain floodwaters behind the levees. Farmers in certain areas can’t get crops in the fields. Many animals have suffered and died as well due to the prolonged period of flooding. Some believe installing more pumps would solve the problem while others say it won’t because the problem was/is just too large. The emotions over this are spilling over.
Wherever you fall in this debate, surely getting together and talking about it is a better means of finding solutions than boycotting this traditional, annual event. The Federation is a not-for-profit organization advocating for habitat, wildlife, and wetlands in this case. They are not the decision maker on this, the EPA is. Any funding for the pumps would be primarily federal funding. So why is the Federation in the crosshairs? It’s a bit hard to figure but if you are someone frustrated and looking for some “dry ground”, you don’t like the fact that the Federation has expressed reservations about past pump proposals. The Federation people have suggested that they are not so much against pumps as they are FOR wetlands preservation, something that the Federation has long fought to protect, and fear this will turn into a slippery slope to drain wetlands to create more farmable acres.
Perhaps the solution is somewhere in between, maybe limited pumping not to exceed a threshold level. Underlying all of this is the fact that the Mississippi has flooded from the beginning of time. It is the very reason the soil is so rich in the delta, and the river moves and changes course, sometimes beyond the ability of man to control. But that type talk sounds like an excuse to those who are flooded. There is a wise saying that the truth is usually “somewhere in between” and I suspect that is exactly the case today. What I do believe is that the people who care about this issue on both sides are the wildlife and habitat-lovingest people Mississippi has to offer. They have so much more in common than their differences on this issue, but in the same way that our political system these days seems to be about nothing but winners and losers, it appears some here are also in favor of playing the “us versus them” game instead of finding a solution and getting it right. Here’s hoping for solid, objective leadership on this issue and an absence of politics for an issue that should be not political at all.
I’m not sure how the pump issue should play out but I know that it won’t be decided by a position statement of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation or a boycott. Let’s get together on this important issue to agricultural interests, outdoorsmen, wildlife enthusiasts, and environmentalists. Mississippians care deeply about each other and our environment. Nobody wants to see anyone flooded and nobody wants to lose valuable wildlife habitat either. I for one can’t wait for this event to start, and I plan to learn all I can about this issue visiting with those in attendance this weekend.