Outdoor lands will most likely shrink

     Most of us living today won't be around to celebrate it, but there will be a tricentennial. In the year 2076, Americans will no doubt talk and write and participate in activities as we now are doing.
     What will it be like?
     No one knows, and therefore any guesses we make can be derided as improbable, but not as impossible. Anything can happen, but as we look back on 200 years and try to peer ahead we can come up with some educated guesses. This is what it might be like:
     It is certain there is going to be a decrease in all kinds of outdoor habitat in 100 years. Pressures of growing crops for hungry humans will mean most agricultural land, even that considered marginal, will be in crops. Perhaps as much as 20 percent of our present forests and marshlands will be lost to cultivation.

Less land, more use

     Along with decreased land for outdoor activity will be an increase in those who want to use the land. More campers, fisherman, hikers, hunters, swimmers, water skiers and bird watchers.
     Somewhere in the next 100 years we will reach the saturation point. There will be too many people wanting to use the same land at the same time. In the year 2076, if you want to go camping, you will:
      Apply for a camp site at a specific park for a specific period of time not to exceed one week. Applications must be made at least six months in advance, accompanied by a modest fee of $25 a night not refundable if you don't show.
      Camp sites will have hot and cold running water and Tri-D cable and be free of mosquitoes and other insects.
      Each will have its won sanitary disposal. Some will be equipped with solar grills and imitation electric fireplaces.
      Fishing will be considerably more expensive than today. An overall $20 conservation license will be needed to use the outdoors for any reason. Then there will be a regular fishing license, a trout stamp and a muskie stamp with one tag for the season limit for that fish.
      There will be special stamps for salmon, bass and lake trout. There will be stamps for some waters such as Lake Superior or Lake Michigan. For the average person who fishes as we do today for a variety of species on a variety of lakes, the fee may be as high as $100.
      As with camping, many lakes and streams will be fished only with reservations. Owners of most private streams and lakes will charge a fee for fishing.
      Hunting will be very restricted. Licenses will be expensive and except for rabbits and squirrels, most hunting will be by application and drawing lots. Duck hunting will have been eliminated for 50 years.

Once in a lifetime

     Most hunters can apply for permits to hunt such animals as elk, moose or bear, but the chances of getting a permit will be small. If one does get a permit and kills an elk, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime affair. One elk per person for a lifetime.
     There will still be many kinds of hunting in Wisconsin. Deer, quail, ruffed grouse will still be available, but hunting will be by reservation only to keep hunter numbers under control.
     The deer kill will be about 40,000 animals a year, and one can expect to get a chance to hunt about once every five years. Hunters will be limited to 400,000 spread over a 20-day period. If you are lucky and make a kill, a $200 trophy tag must be attached at the checking station.
     There will be no pheasant hunting, the state will have abandoned its put and take approach, but a new strain of winter-hardy quail will have been developed and most of southern and central Wisconsin will have them in modest numbers. Most of this hunting will be on private farms where a daily fee will be charged or season hunting rights purchased by a group of hunters with well-stocked billfolds.

Reservations needed

     Hikers and bird watchers will start out by buying the basic $20 conservation license. Some areas will be open with no restrictions, but more popular areas will require reservations. There will be few places where people are not restricted to trails.
     Snowmobiling will be a sport for those who enjoy luxury. Machines will be enclosed with plastic bubbles so one can drive around in shirt sleeves. Reasonably-priced sleds will cost $15,000 and most models will be about double that. Licensing will be $100 a year.
     Snow-shoeing will be a lost art and most snowshoes will be in museums. However, cross-country skiing will be moderately popular with those who want to "rough it." There will be chalets every two miles along the trail, but they will be modest and only serve light lunches and liquors.
     There will be a great change in outdoor equipment. Lightweight clothing which is warm in winter, cool in summer and rainproof will be available. Insect repellent will only be necessary for those who go into the "back country", and these people need only to take a small pill every day to keep bug-free.
     Water skiing will be limited to certain waters at certain times and on more popular lakes it will be necessary to reserve a time.

Better, cleaner air

     Surprisingly, water and air quality will be generally better than today. Most air pollution will be eliminated or neutralized and the only water pollution will be nutrients, leached from the soil, such as nitrates and phosphates. Ways will be found to control their harmful effects and algae blooms will be a rarity even in older, shallow lakes.
     People will read books printed 100 years earlier and talk of the late 20th century when there was room for everyone and a fishing license cost less than $5. And just imagine, you could go to Yellowstone Park and drive all around in a car anytime you wanted.
     And some things may not change. It may still be possible 100 years from now to walk quietly through Putnam Park in Eau Claire, to see the wild flowers covering the ground in spring and note deer tracts in wet ground by the skunk cabbage. The pileated woodpecker may still roll the drum from a hollow tree and Minnie Creek may still flow small and clear.

--Jim Fisher

Extracted from the Eau Claire Leader Telegram
Special Publication, Our Story 'The Chippewa Valley and Beyond', published 1976
Used with permission.

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