By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.
At fist glance, it might not appear that sign vandalism and North Dakota’s outdoors would have much in common. But on closer inspection, the connections are obvious.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department, in its October 2019 issue of North Dakota Outdoors magazine, took a hard look at this long-standing issue, and a new program designed to reduce the senseless destruction.
Dale Heglund, program director of the North Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program, is leading the statewide effort, called the Sign Warrior program, that encourages kids to convince adults that they shouldn’t vandalize signs.
The Game and Fish Department, through its hunter education program, has joined the effort in educating young hunters of the dangers of shooting at road and other signs.
Heglund said in the article that it’s unlikely the vandals who shoot and damage signs think about those they are putting at risk.
“They don’t realize that when a sign is shot, motorists don’t get that bounce-back of light needed at night to read a sign correctly and get the message it’s trying to deliver,” Heglund said. “And when that’s the case, bad things can happen.”
John Mazur, Game and Fish Department hunter education coordinator, said when Heglund approached him about the sign initiative, he thought it was the perfect opportunity to reinforce something hunter education volunteers have been teaching students.
“As far as Game and Fish is concerned and hunting is concerned, we have both a direct and an indirect impact from people shooting signs,” Mazur said. “Of course, we have our own signage, like PLOTS and WMA signs, and when those get shot up, we have to replace them.
“But there’s also that indirect impact because of what’s associated with it when a sign gets shot, especially out in the country,” he added. “People say that a hunter did it. Well, we don’t want that message to be out there, because it’s not a hunter at that point when they’re shooting signs. They are vandals.”
Plus, those people pulling the trigger are breaking the law.
“When we hold up a shot-up sign in class and we ask the kids who did this, the first thing they say is that it was shot by a hunter,” Mazur said. “No. No. No. That’s our answer. We need to separate from that, and this sign initiative goes great with the message we want to send forward because our image to the public, especially the nonhunting public, is very important.”
Heglund said sign vandalism isn’t something that has reared its ugly head just of late. People were damaging signs nearly 100 years ago when a roadway network was being developed across the country.
“Our effort now is to really drive home the point that it’s somebody in our neighborhood that is doing the damage,” Heglund said. “Let’s put an end to this because if we don’t see a sign and we miss the message, we run the risk of not making it home safe that night.”
Leier is an Outreach Biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Dept.
Featured Photo: Hunters often wrongly get blamed for vandals shooting up road signs. NDG&F Photo.