The outdoors woman and the role of government

What’s this program gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer is talking about that spends taxpayer money to take ‘metro-area women on camping vacations’?


During today’s “spirited” discussion between gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and MPR Midmorning’s host, Kerri Miller, the GOP-endorsed candidate again raised a Department of Natural Resources program for women as an example of things the government should not be involved in (that, and, a program to map the migratory habits of owls).

“Our Department of Natural Resources, which should have a very important function when it comes to overseeing and application of rules and regulations for wonderful recreation and other resources or open spaces… I’ve been told recently — and I haven’t been corrected yet; nobody’s come forward and said ‘that’s not true’ — we’re now spending tax dollars to take metro women on bus trips for camping vacations,” he told Miller.

“Apparently our DNR is taking buses of metro women on camping trips. I think that’s great, but it shouldn’t be a priority of government,” Emmer said on MPR’s Midday a few weeks ago.

More than likely, he’s talking about the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, which is a far cry from a camping bus trip for city-slicker women.

Here’s the history of the program, according to the DNR Web site:


Christine Thomas, an Associate Dean and Professor of Resource Management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources, developed a program in 1991 called “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” (B.O.W.) which teaches women outdoor skills. It began when Christine started researching the reasons why more women didn’t participate in outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing. She determined that women prefer to learn outdoor skills in a non-competitive atmosphere taught by other women. If you’d like to learn a little more about the program beginnings Christine has published a book titled “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman: My Outdoor Adventure.”

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman started in Minnesota in 1994 when a committee of interested people came together with Christine Thomas and decided to adopt it as a Minnesota Program. The program direction was under Roger Holmes with the Division of Wildlife at the DNR. Some of those same committee members are still working on the program today. Jean Bergerson was one of those original committee members and is now the Minnesota B.O.W. Coordinator. As a side note, Minnesota was the first state to offer multiple workshops in one year and the first state to offer winter workshops.

Weekend workshops include: Camping, cross-country skiing, fly-fishing, guided archery hunts, guided grouse hunts, hunting weekends, ice fishing, and winter camping.

A calendar of the program’s events are here.

People who take the workshops pay a fee for doing so, and private sponsors contribute to the program’s cost (Presumably more outdoorspeople is more money for Minnesota businesses). But DNR officials have not yet returned my messages to find out the net taxpayer cost of the program.

Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Louisiana are among the other states that have the identical program.

  • Kassie

    No call back yet from the DNR? Wait until Emmer cuts all the communication staff, then you will never get a call back.

  • Joe

    Same old stuff…”I don’t consider myself an inside policitician”…it is always the same thing, they all seem to think that they have some kind of great revelation as to how everything should be done differently that it used to be blah blah blah…sadly more lip service from Mr. Emmer.

  • john P.

    Same old story.

    1. Candidate finds a program or two that sounds a little silly, and says that the government is loaded with waste and needs cutting. Candidate signs “No New Taxes” pledge.

    2. Taxpayers, hoping to get something for nothing elect the candidate. He or she cuts important programs, because the programs that sounded silly really are not, and the real waste doesn’t amount to much.

    3. We continue the race to become a cold Alabama

  • bsimon

    It would be interesting to learn, if the data is available, how many women have been through this program, then track whether they’ve kept up their new skills.

    Specifically, if it costs the state $200 per participant (to make up a number), how long does it take to recoup those costs in terms of fees collected for licenses or state park passes?

  • Bob Collins

    It’s also an interesting question of whether the government should be in the business of drumming up business for state parks etc., particularly as the state just bought a hunk of land for another state park. If we don’t believe there’s an advantage of giving people an incentive to use state parks — for example — then why is there a government interest in having state parks?

  • Bonnie

    I only caught the last ten minutes of the interview…she asked three or four questions to which she received zero answers. It was extremely frustrating. If we are going to invest in preserving natural resources for recreation, which I happen to think is extremely important for a healthy society, part of the program has to be educating citizens about the resources. Emmer would have no doubt fought against the BWCAW legislation…and I shudder to think.

  • Chris

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think fees (like for the park access) aren’t meant to be revenue generators. I think they’re meant to cover the costs of offering the service.

    So would the state really earn any extra money if more people went to the parks? Or is the fee money used to pay for costs those new park-goers are generating (using the trails, filling up trash cans, taking up the time of park employees, etc)?

  • judy

    I went on a BOW weekend last February and absolutely loved it. I learned how to snow shoe, archery and gun safety. I have since purchased a compound bow, lessons and many arrows at a local retailer, and practice at a nearby park reserve. I can’t wait until winter when I buy my snowshoes and practice archery.

    I appreciate nature so much now! It is my balance from the electronic world I live it. I listen to birds sing verses beeps from my computer, phone, tv, etc. It was a wonderful experience and I wouldn’t have never learned these skill or appreciated the wonderful resources we have in MN without BOW!

  • TK

    I paid my own way to go on the BOW outing through the DNR. I didn’t get any money from the government to go. I didn’t ride on a bus to get there. I drove my own car. I don’t know what Emmer or whatever his name is – is talking about. He doesn’t have his facts straight.