These are trying times to be sure. I wholeheartedly believe that physical distancing is a wise course of action and I have been practicing it (and wearing disposable gloves, spraying down groceries with 1:10 bleach solution before bringing them into the house, and taking to wearing a mask in public places). In fact, I live alone about nine miles from the nearest village in a township with a population of under 700, and I have lived alone for the last twenty years. Physical distancing has been a way of life for me for quite some time now. I can see where there are situations where the public health might be put in jeopardy by the actions of thoughtless folks at boat landings or on some hiking trails might call for actions that. Here in Wisconsin, despite the recent farce involving voting and the closing of poling stations virtually insuring that large crowds would be brought together for extended periods of time, I’ve seen no prohibitions on hiking trails or boat ramps and folks have been doing a reasonably good job of distancing. Yet here’s a Wisconsin Covid prohibition that has just been enacted that really baffles me and that affects me greatly. Let me explain:
I own a small bit of wooded hillside overlooking a cattail bog and trout stream that has been a source of joy and natural beauty to me for the last thirty five years. Two years ago I had a hip replaced and was laid up for the spring. Last year I had a bit of a ladder mishap and broke my leg and so was laid up for a second consecutive spring. So I now look out upon my property and can’t help noticing that I have my own little private epidemic going on. Japanese honeysuckle. It might even be called a pandemic since I can drive ten miles in any direction from where I live and never be out of sight of the stuff. Many of you may not know it, but it is an especially pernicious invasive species. Its like kudzu or purple loose-strife. Chokes out all the native forbs, the orchids and trillium, hepatica, blood root - all of 'em and many trees to boot. OK, so I can’t paddle much or go out… I can catch up with the care of my little bit of woodland. A worthy endeavor by any naturalist’s of DNR standards…
But the DNR has declared, due to Covid, that they will not issue any burn permits in the whole state and, as of a few year’s ago will not allow any outside burning at all without a permit - not even burn barrels. The idea of requiring permission to burn piles of brush cuttings, limb trimmings, or use a burn barrel on your own land seemed, when they first initiated it, a bit draconian to me. After all, use of language, backed blades, and fire are the hallmarks of our species. People have been burning in spring around here for at least 10,000 years, often successfully.
But yes, as has been already mentioned here, there are fools in this world. Some will burn in drought conditions, in the wind, leave fires unattended, etc. and fires have gotten away. So I’ll go along and not kick too hard about getting permits and informing the local fire marshal when I plan to burn my used mailing envelopes, silly as it seems. But this is a mostly rural state and most people here have been burning all there lives and, lacking rural garbage pick up, it has been a standard procedure for most folks in the state since before statehood. Around here we all learned about and remember the lesson of the Peshtigo fire… Its a sobering bit of knowledge.
But now NO burning at all? What the heck is one supposed to do with all the cut honeysuckle? One of the DNR web pages actually suggests throwing a tarp over yard waste until there’s 100% snow cover. Acres of tarp just doesn’t sound like a practical suggestion to me, nor does surrounding your house with piles of combustible fuel for half a year. Write off all the native species on your property? This really seems like a regulation that could only grow in the minds of folks who have never lived without public servants to pick up their garbage and possibly never been more that a mile from a parking meter.
And what does this regulation have to do with a virus? This is a complete non-sequitur to me. (Did you ride the bus to school or bring your own lunch?) The DNR web page explains that since its spring and many people burn in spring the risk is especially high, so it won’t be allowed at all. Due to a virus?
I really do suspect that there is either some reason for this that isn’t being articulated or there is no reasoning involved at all.
So OK, I’ll be happy to distance. I’ll stay home. I’ll wear gloves and masks and do whatever I can to help. But really, are we supposed to just sit down and watch reruns of rawhide for months on end? Is there really some good reason why productive physical activity on one’s own property must be prohibited?