By Pat Conzemius, President & CEO, Wildlife Forever
Remember thestory from Shel Silverstein, “The Giving Tree”? It’s a classic childhood story, inspiring the importance giving back. The tree provided fruit, limbs for building a house and lastly, her trunk for a boat. In the end, all that was left was a stump. The tree was tapped out.
Today, the future of fish and wildlife face a similar tale. Older generations of hunters and anglers are not being replaced to fill the needs for adequate management of the resource.
NORTH AMERICAN MODEL
In the United States, we’re blessed with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. License fees, stamps and permits help fund state and federal fish and wildlife management agencies. Purchases of select equipment and fuel for boats are taxed by the federal government then redistributed to state agencies to fund conservation and management.
For decades, participation with traditional (revenue generating) outdoor activities has declined. Most dramatically is participation by hunters. Since 1980 we’ve lost over 7 million license-buying, equipment-purchasing hunters.
RECRUIT, RETAIN AND REACTIVATE
In response, a new movement to recruit the next generation and reactivate past participants has emerged, called R3 (recruit, retain, reactivate). The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is a top advocate for R3 and continues to help increase participation in hunting, target shooting and gun ownership. R3 efforts include online webinars, development programs and strategies that can be accessed by NSSF members interested in learning more about how to help preserve the hunting tradition.
Evidence shows that hunting and fishing are not only good for us, but that survival of fish and wildlife are dependent on our pursuit.
STATE-FISH ART CONTEST
Wildlife Forever has been one such organization dedicated to the future of our outdoor heritage. Programs such as the State-Fish Art Contest engage youth to learn about fish and aquatic conservation by creating fish-art, writing about their state-fish, then competing for state and national recognition. For over 20 years thousands of teachers, parents, art studios, boy/girl scouts and schools have used the State-Fish Art program as a gateway to bridge science and art, inspire stewardship and get youth outdoors.
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Sponsors like Bass Pro Shops and the U.S. Forest Service support the State-Fish Art program as a model R3 initiative. And, as a free program, educators have little to no cost to teach conservation and the vital importance that fishing plays in protecting the resource. Currently, Alaska, Georgia, Missouri and Texas host their state’s State-Fish Art program. Thousands of students participate each year from all corners of the globe. Winning artwork from this past year can be viewed online.
Inspired by Bud Grant, NFL Hall of Famer, State-Fish Art was developed to teach youth about their natural environment. It gives youth a creative outlet and opportunity to connect with our physical world. For many youth, State-Fish Art is their first hands on exposure to fishing and environmental education. As a result, many students become first time anglers and get hooked for life.
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Members of Wildlife Forever have been supporting efforts to engage youth and ensure future generations have access to fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation. As a non-profit, 93 percent of funds received by Wildlife Forever go directly to on-the-ground conservation.
Help ensure the future of fish and wildlife along with the fishing and hunting opportunities that come with it.
Whether it’s getting involved in an organization, teaching a friend how to hunt and fish or donating to an organization that’s invested in keeping our hunting and fishing sustainable—the future depends upon it.