One of the most important aspects of writing a column is to offer an opinion on a subject or decision that you don't agree with.
As long as one sticks to the facts and doesn't engage in personal attacks, it's not a bad thing to be critical or point out a negative.
But it's also important not to overlook the positives, or offer praise for a good deed or correct decision.
Last month, there were two good decisions made when it comes to the outdoors.
In January, more than 40 sportsmen and conservation organizations sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett urging him not to lease additional state forest land for oil and gas drilling. I sided with the groups' position, stating that such a move could impact the revenue generated from outdoors recreation that occurs on the state forests and, more importantly, the character and environmental integrity of such places.
Thanks in part to the 40 outdoors groups that spoke up in January, Corbett did not include any plan to lease additional state forest acreage when he released the state budget.
It was a good move – one that Corbett should be commended for making.
Days after the budget was released, Ken Undercoffer, president of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, praised the governor.
"We're pleased that the governor listened to Pennsylvania sportsmen and women and did not sacrifice Pennsylvania's forests by turning them into a revenue item in the state budget," Undercoffer stated in a press release.
Undercoffer went on to request that Corbett provide permanent protection for the un-leased portion of the state forest land – another good move.
When I wrote the column opposing the idea of leasing the state forest land, I wrote the move would be extremely risky due to a lack of oversight on the gas industry by the Department of Environmental Protection.
It was more of an opinion than a criticism, but a week later, the DEP made a positive stride in the oversight department when they fined Chesapeake Appalachia LLC $565,000 for erosion and sediment control problems and wetland encroachment violations that occurred in Potter and Bradford counties.
On a different front, in January there was talk that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission board was strongly considering a move to do away with the requirement to display a fishing license.
I wrote two columns opposing such a move and questioned why it was even being considered by the board.
When the PFBC board held its quarterly meeting at the end of January, the display requirement was discussed at length. In the end, the board concluded to not do away with the display requirement, citing concerns with law enforcement's ability to check hundreds of anglers at a stream or lake to see if they possess a valid license.
Keeping the display requirement in place was the right call, and the PFBC board deserves a pat on the back, so to speak, for not pursuing the change.
Pointing out the positives that Corbett, the DEP and the PFBC have achieved of late doesn't mean they are perfect and it certainly shouldn't insinuate that hunters and anglers shouldn't continue to question their decisions or voice a concern.
It also doesn't mean that outdoors writers should no longer state an adverse opinion or criticize a decision, when the situation calls for it.
It's important for hunters, anglers and outdoors writers to scrutinize the decision makers and hold them accountable for a poor decision.
And it's equally important not to overlook the positive things they do and recognize when the proper decision is made.