Duck season’s second opener is next Saturday. Bow hunting is tough right now, with abundant greenery concealing the hunch that whitetails haven’t been moving much anyway. Perpetual high water across the state is once again on the rise.

The week ahead will be a time of contemplation more than action for outdoor-minded folks, pondering the arrival of seasonal change.

Fall colors usually near peak in the northwoods about mid-September. This year, autumn splendor won’t arrive up there for at least another week.

Water temperatures on northern Wisconsin lakes are still holding at a solid 60 degrees—at least five degrees warmer than temps which trigger fall turnover.

High water in October is not unusual. But lakes and rivers on the rise from running belly full all year raises the specter of global warming to even the most ardent climate-change skeptics.

I confess to being one of these folks, slow to accept any observations that can’t be confirmed by personal experience. Man’s impact on the environment is undeniable.

My beloved Mississippi River is a case in point.

The immortal river that drains two-thirds of the continental United States ran essentially unchanged until the mid-1930s when 33 lock and dam systems from St. Paul to St. Louis changed the character of this river forever.

In just my lifetime, siltation caused by unwise farming practices and the Corps of Engineers narrow-minded focus at maintaining a congress-mandated navigation channel has filled once vibrant backwaters with muck from northwest Illinois where I grew up to north of La Crosse—more than 200 miles.

The delta country south of New Orleans is still the biggest wetland in North America. It is going away at an alarming football field a day.

Salt-water intrusion is blamed for this loss of habitat. A day on the bayous, sight fishing for bull redfish a couple weeks ago with Louisiana chief marine biologist Chris Schieble, was more of an ecological awakening than a truly memorable fishing experience.

Schieble said decades of offshore drilling has caused mucky marshland to compact as petroleum is removed. When coupled with glacial melting that is causing a rise in sea level, salt water has flowed into cordgrass in the delta’s freshwater marsh, drastically changing the biomass of this intricate ecosystem.

Thousands of long PVC poles have replaced what was once an endless sea of marshgrass. The poles mark DNR leases of oyster beds under what is now open water.

Poor stewardship by Americans—not global warming—has caused flood plain siltation on the Upper Mississippi and soil compression down in the delta.

Rising ocean levels caused by glacial melt is an animal.

If global warming is indeed caused by a worldwide human carbon footprint, this situation won’t change until the entire world picks up its foot.

The USA is only a small part of the little toe. Acting independently for the greater good—the American Way—will simply bring the jackboot of the rest of the world down on our necks.

Our individual time on the planet is shorter than a blink of the Creator’s eye. Climate change has been happening on this big blue marble since the obtuse concept of Day One.

Back in the late 1970s, the cover of Newsweek magazine speculated on the dawn of a new Ice Age. Those who were around back then can recall blaze orange foam tennis balls on car antennas to warn approaching vehicles on the other side of endless roadside drifts.

This memory seems like yesterday in the finite, fleeting span of a human life. There is no doubt—from this perspective—that 2019 will be a benchmark year. This is a slow week in the Wisconsin outdoors for October.

But next week will be a beauty, from peak fall color in the north to duck season’s second opener, deer on the move and crazy good fishin’ ahead of fall turnover in this neck of the state.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc

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