Opinion: Schara shares light-hearted, yet powerful message

Ron Schara and Raven

Ron Schara and his dog, Raven, headlined the 2011 Elk River Energy Expo.
He wasn’t there to talk about global warming, sustainable forms of energy or even energy audits that can pave the way to shaving hundreds of dollars off a homeowners’ utility bills.
He talked about his dog mostly, the granddaughter of the original Raven that got her start 16 years ago when “Minnesota Bound” began airing in the Twin Cities.
The show is now approaching No. 600. It airs at 10:35 p.m. on Sundays and at 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays on KARE 11.
The 4-year-old black Labrador reminds Schara of her grandmother, only she has even more energy.
He told how the cameraman struggled to film the dog, because he said it was like trying to photograph a pile of black blankets with a couple eyes sticking out. He pressed Schara to find something colorful.
That’s when he found an old handkerchief hanging on a coat rack in his house.
“That’s perfect,” the cameraman exclaimed.
It has become Raven’s trademark. “She knows something is happening when I put this on her,” Schara said.
Schara also told the audience about the 724-acre Two Rivers Wildlife Management Area in Redwood County that became possible through a partnership with Gander Mountain and Pheasants Forever in the late 1990s. The effort included a contest that attracted 7,000 people to sign up for a chance to win one of Raven’s pups.
That alone raised $25,000, which was parlayed into a quarter of a million dollars by the time all the contributions and matching grants were tallied up.
Schara also talked about some of his favorite stories over the years, including one of a man who took him fishing and caught a fish on his first cast — even though he did not have hands or arms.
Schara shook his foot when he greeted the man at his home, something the man later thanked him for. He appreciated that he didn’t freak out over his extended foot. “Most people think feet are dirty. I have to eat with mine,” the man said.
Schara talked about the river clean-up effort the Mississippi River underwent a half century ago when the water had become so polluted when the sun went down all the oxygen vanished.
The effort taught him “we can clean up our mistakes,” Schara said.
Schara said Minnesotans gave themselves the greatest gift ever when they passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2009.
The tax amounts to four cents on every $10 purchase.
One-third of that money goes to an Outdoor Heritage Fund to be spent only to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests and habitat for game, fish and wildlife;
Another one-third goes to a Clean Water Fund to be spent only to protect, enhance and restore water quality in lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater, with at least 5 percent of the fund spent to protect drinking water sources;
About 14 percent goes to a newly created Parks and Trails Fund to be spent only to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.
Just under 20 percent goes to an Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund to be spent only for arts, arts education and arts access, and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.
The money dedicated under the constitutional amendment will be appropriated by law. The dedicated money must supplement traditional funding sources for these purposes and could not be used as a substitute.
Schara warned it would be far too easy in these economic times to say “the lakes can wait.”
The former Star Tribune outdoor writer and celebrity television host was recently named to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) that oversees one of the funds. He said it will amount to about $70 million annually for this particular fund — more if the economy improves. Schara promised to be a watchdog.
And just like Schara concludes all his Minnesota Bound shows, he snuck in a comment about the importance bringing children outdoors.
He talked about how kids — and their parents — are choosing to stay indoors far more than ever. One of the draws for kids is video games. One of the worries of parents is fear of abductions.
“I have never met a kid who wasn’t fascinated by what’s under the dock,” Schara said.
He said there are activities available. He directed people to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.
He said people are making the decisions about what’s most important, and suggested some of these decisions warrant being challenged.
Schara lamented how sports like soccer, football and hockey seem to generate tremendous support from parents, but the idea of parents taking a child fishing or hunting or for a walk or bike ride on a Minnesota trail seems far too uncommon by comparison.
He said he has challenged the schools that develop curriculum for athletics in gym class to consider fishing and other outdoor-type activities.
“When you’re 60, you’re not going to be playing soccer,” he said. “But you could go fishing.”
And he didn’t say it, but he didn’t have to. If children grow up without playing and exploring in the great outdoors, the likelihood they will have a care and concern for our natural resources is diminished.
Schara referenced Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.”
The book launched a national movement to reconnect children to the natural world. This movement has gained incredible momentum in a short period of time with state coalitions, regional campaigns and local grassroots initiatives forming all over the country and world.
Schara seems to suggest that movement, however, hasn’t expanded enough.
Maybe it’s time for the Elk River area to assess not only the opportunities for children to play outdoors but how much we as adults encourage it.
We might regret it when youth grow up and they lack the connection with nature that fosters physical, emotional and educational well being as well as an appreciation of our limited natural resources.
Thanks for sharing this message, Ron. And thanks for bringing Raven. The kids really loved to see him. So did the adults. — Jim Boyle, editor

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