In a disturbing sign of the times, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, as part of a major restructuring effort, has announced it will eliminate the paper’s hunting and fishing (outdoors) beat.

Editor and Publisher magazine reported Friday that as many as 100 Star-Tribune newsroom staffers may be taken off their current beats and forced to apply for new assignments when the week-long shake-up is complete.

“It is quite unbelievable,” Doug Smith, 20-year Star-Trib veteran and its outdoor writer for 11 years told E&P.; “The job was basically eliminated. I will have the chance to apply for other reporting or editing jobs, but it is not real pleasant.”

Such moves are becoming an unfortunate trend as many struggling newspapers look for ways to cut fiscal corners. Sadly, it is the outdoor writer who often is targeted as one of the first casualties in such belt-tightening efforts.

The news is especially troubling because Minnesota has one of the country’s highest per capita hunting and fishing demographics.

More and more newspaper outdoor writers I know are being required to cover multiple events and beats to justify the continued publishing of a weekly or bi-weekly outdoors column or page–even if those other subjects fall outside of their interest or expertise. In addition, as some hunting and fishing scribes retire from papers today, they are simply not being replaced.

It is indeed a sad state of affairs for hunting, fishing, the shooting sports–and outdoors journalism.