- Associated Press - Thursday, September 8, 2016

Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan, Yankton, Sept. 6, 2016

A player’s gesture stirs major debate

The curious case of Colin Kaepernick (besides providing some convenient alliteration to open this piece) has evolved into a debate about patriotism that seems somewhat removed from the original intention of its perpetrator.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has become headlines news lately for staying seated during the playing of the National Anthem before an exhibition football game two weeks ago. Many people - fans, sports journalists, fellow players and others - have criticized the gesture, and some have been clearly outraged. Meanwhile, there are those who have risen to his defense, sometimes even if they don’t see eye to eye with his sentiment.

It has produced a debate that probably says more about us than it does about the quarterback.

Kaepernick, who is biracial, said he chose this gesture as a protest against acts of violence by police against black people and because of racial inequality in this country. We’ve heard and seen such grievances aired in this nation many times before, particularly in the past several months.

Of course, Kaepernick is one of those people who are in a rare position to make such statements. As a professional athlete, he attracts a unique amount of attention. As a RICH professional athlete, he certainly doesn’t have to personally worry about the economic issues that disproportionately impact minorities more than white people.

This incident (which he repeated this past week) has been inflated into something far more than one man’s social statement. It has been interpreted as disrespect for the flag and the nation, and it’s even been likened to a slap in the face to our troops. However, there are some who have admired Kaepernick’s courage for taking such a high-profile stand. Some players have joined him in this gesture. And in that sure-fire barometer of public whims, sales of Kaepernick’s jersey have spiked in recent days. (This really is due to his recent notoriety, since Kaepernick’s star power has plunged dramatically the last couple seasons; the fact that he made the 49ers’ roster for the season opener was almost headline news.)

But this is what we Americans are like sometimes, and in a way, this is what keeps the republic vibrant. We see something like this and we respond, coming to the defense of American tradition or speaking out in the defense of expression in a land where freedom of speech and thought are absolutely sacred.

Indeed, this incident has become a handy flashpoint to debate the merits of critical opinion, which is Kaepernick’s constitutional right to exercise. In turn, people who have agreed or disagreed with Kaepernick are exercising the same right protected by that very First Amendment of the Constitution.

Thus, Kaepernick had every right to do what he did - but along with that right, he must now endure every stone and laurel thrown at him as a result. It’s just one price we pay for our freedoms.

As for the substance of this incident, it could be said that the two sides are generally arguing slightly different things: Critics say he callously disrespected a cherished symbol of the very freedom he is exercising, while (as far as we’ve seen) Kaepernick’s defenders applaud his courage, not the fact that he may have dissed the National Anthem. But such parsing usually doesn’t mean a lot amid the broadsides of vigorous, stormy debate.

Ultimately, perhaps the real point of Kaepernick’s gesture is just what’s going on right now. People are talking about his statement and his motives, although the latter seems slightly eclipsed at times. Many Americans are either defending him or condemning him. That’s the purpose here, one can suppose, and that’s what makes the freedom of speech such a vital part of our democracy and our discourse, even if you agree or disagree with the vessel.

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Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, Sept. 8, 2016

Some find optimism in falling pheasant numbers

Pheasant hunting in South Dakota is changing, which makes a drop in pheasant numbers this year all the more alarming.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Department recently released its annual pheasant brood survey report. It showed a 20 percent decrease in the statewide pheasants-per-mile index from 2015.

More importantly, the 2016 numbers are 41 percent below the 10-year index average, according to the survey. There were notable decreases in the Aberdeen area.

But the state GFP and those on the front lines of the pheasant industry will again say, “We still are going to have a good season.”

With good reason: Pheasant hunting has turned from a South Dakota tradition to a tourist economy. From the state’s perspective, it is imperative that a good-news spin is put on this less-than-good news.

It is hard to argue that our South Dakota pheasant culture isn’t changing:

- It is becoming a rich person’s game. Hunting lodges are becoming the norm. Finding a landowner who will let you hunt on land for free seems to be more and more rare.

- It is becoming more of an event for out-of-staters. Thousands of South Dakotans have stopped hunting pheasants. The resident licenses sold during the past three seasons are the lowest totals since 1940.

Last year, nearly 85,000 nonresident hunters spent an estimated $140 million in South Dakota, and the state’s 65,000 resident hunters added another $30 million.

- Decades ago, hunting once was one of our only major recreational activities, but it has lost that footing through the years. Now there are so many more options.

At one time, parents’ biggest dreams were to see their children hunt pheasants with them. Now, parents can encourage their children to become athletes, musicians or artists rather than a hunter. Young students are pulled in so many directions with extracurriculars that hunting can fall off the family radar entirely.

No doubt wildlife officials are concerned. But we also heard some spin:

-“The availability of pheasants and pheasant hunting opportunities across the state this fall should serve to enhance that tradition.”

- Officials said poor weather during the survey might have influenced results. They encouraged hunters to check with people in their traditional hunting areas about pheasant abundance, especially in areas such as northeast South Dakota.

- “Good pheasant hunting opportunities will exist in 2016.”

Also, wildlife officials also have made a lot of valid noise about our state’s reduction in Conservation Reserve Program acres that enhance wildlife habitat. We agree that habitat, such as what CRP acres provide, is vital for pheasant and other wildlife survival. But the experience over the life of the CRP program from 1987 through now suggests there are other mystical factors that are as important as well.

There was a span of about 15 years when CRP exceeded 1.4 million acres and yet pheasants per mile remained below six. Then we had about eight years when the pheasants per mile reached six or higher, even as CRP acres were declining.

Why did it take so long for pheasants per mile to reach six or more? This is the real mystery.

When CRP was at its peak for nine years, the pheasants per mile fluctuated in much the same sub-six range as they have the past few years. We essentially have returned to what appears to be the real normal. The big populations of 2003 through 2010 now seem to be the exception.

This year’s statewide pheasant season opens Oct. 15 and runs through next Jan. 1. We are hoping for the best, and are eager to see how it all plays out.

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The Volante, Vermillion, Sept. 6, 2016

Students, faculty need to work together to promote sustainability on campus

With a new semester in full swing, students expect changes around campus - perhaps more than what they’re actually seeing.

Not to undermine those fancy new charging stations, but when it comes to campus-wide sustainability, USD continues to lag behind.

Even after proposals for increased recycling facilities and energy-efficient options, these have yet to become reality.

While we can delay acting on sustainability initiatives indefinitely, their impact on the community and environment won’t wait. If we want to be serious about creating a healthy future, we need to begin taking action toward greater sustainability now.

We’ve been following USD’s process toward campus-wide recycling since last year. Environmental consulting firm Verdis Group has conducted an evaluation on USD’s recycling efforts, but the results of that evaluation have yet to be released and the pilot recycling program is still in the works.

The only goal at this point is starting the pilot program for recycling, but the goals of this program have no deadline. Many logistics, resources and planning go into implementing just the pilot program, but beyond that, the future of the program is up in the air. The majority of staff, faculty and students remain in the dark on how and when sustainability efforts will begin.

When it comes to sustainability, widespread collaboration is key. Every single person on campus should be on the same page to create enduring change. With thousands of trash cans located in dorms and across campus, a recycling initiative could alter our current lifestyle dramatically. But we cannot rely on a single person or group to make a difference. We cannot let our individual inconveniences of sorting out our waste deter us from necessary change.

According to Meghann Jarchow, an assistant professor of sustainability at USD and a member of the President’s Committee on Sustainability, one of the options USD has been looking at for a pilot recycling program would include having a common recycling area on each floor that faculty members and students would be able to drop their recyclables into.

When a survey was sent out to faculty and students last semester asking them about recycling efforts and if they’d be willing to use a common recycling area, however, most respondents said they weren’t interested.

Because recycling isn’t widespread, many of us are unfamiliar with how to make recycling a habit. Along with a new system promoting recycling, we need more education in leading and maintaining a sustainable life.

According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, if the more than 18 million American college students graduate with the skills to help societies develop more sustainably, higher education will play a key role in leading the entire world in a new direction.

The need for sustainability isn’t going away any time soon - problems like climate change, loss of biodiversity and limited water resources are here to stay.

As students, we have a heavy burden on our shoulders to support a healthy environment for future generations. We’re the ones growing up in an age where potential global ruin is in our midst.

According to NexGen Climate, the millennial generation will lose nearly $8.8 trillion in lifetime income because of climate change. As millennials, it’s time we make our voices heard on the issues impacting our futures. The actions from one college campus could easily spark a movement and inspire others.

Plans for a pilot program are a great place to start, but as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. We can read and speak all we want about the effects of climate change, but until we do something, it will only get worse.

We’ve already heard it from Al Gore, Bill Nye, even the Lorax. Now it’s our job to turn those words into a sustainable reality, starting at USD.

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