The term “ecotourism” is most often associated with visits to undisturbed natural areas, but perhaps it’s time to broaden that definition — to include enjoying the scenery and studying the plants and animals found on America’s farmlands.
A perfect example of this is occurring in west-central Kansas.
Tourists flocked this spring to the area’s ranches that provide a habitat to the lesser prairie chicken, a species of grouse known for the males’ elaborate calls and showy displays of reddish-orange air sacs while performing spring mating dances.
Chronic wasting disease already is a problem in the 24 states (including all but Indiana and Ohio in the Midwest) and two Canadian provinces where it has been detected in free-ranging deer, elk or moose. This year in Minnesota, though, legislators have been exploring just how much bigger the problem could become — if the disease continues to spread and/or if it is transmitted to humans.
“It has the potential to change hunting as we know it,” Minnesota Rep. Rick Hansen says. “As a hunter, I am concerned about field processing and consumption of deer, and other hunters should be too.”
No human is known to have gotten ill from eating venison from a CWD deer, but that might not always be the case, a state expert warned lawmakers at a legislative hearing earlier this year in Minnesota.
For decades, the lack of a commercial hemp industry has made the United States an outlier among most of the world’s developed countries. That may soon change, and some states in the Midwest have already been pursuing policies to ensure their farmers can make the most of this new market opportunity.
“Hemp could be a valuable crop,” North Dakota Rep. Dennis Johnson says, “but we need processors and market diversity and reliable regulations. “The 2018 farm bill goes a long way toward doing this.”
Enacted at the end of last year, the new law legalizes industrial hemp (it must have a THC concentration level of below 0.3 percent), allowing for market-scale cultivation and the interstate sale of products. In another important change for producers, the new farm bill allows hemp to be included in federal crop insurance.