Ask any passionate angler, hunter or outdoors person what he or she loves about nature and getting outdoors, and key points come up, including a love of connecting with nature, being able to relax and spending quality time outdoors with friends and families.
To help them enjoy their experiences, people say they want protection for habitats and public access, and education to help make sure the next generation cares about and understands the importance of fish and wildlife conservation and appreciates the joy and benefits conservation provides.
Each state has an agency dedicated to fish and wildlife conservation and providing fishing and hunting opportunities to the 88 million Americans over the age of 16 who fish, hunt or enjoy other wildlife-related recreation (2006 National Survey). In Florida, that is the responsibility of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Throughout 2011, the FWC made huge inroads to address those concerns through enhanced education, outreach and communications efforts. In previous Fish Busters’ Bulletins, we’ve discussed Get Outdoors Florida! (www.GetOutdoorsFlorida.org) and the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (www.FYCCN.org), which have gotten off to amazing starts but still need your support to reach Floridians about the benefits of enjoying active, nature-based recreation.
This column is about the FWC’s education and outreach. In October 2010, FWC staff joined educators from 37 state fish and wildlife agencies for a North American Conservation Education Strategy Training Academy. This Academy stressed core concepts in education and outreach (including outdoor skills, hunter education and aquatic education programs) to provide more valuable and relevant messages to Americans of all ages.
Training was fully funded by a grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Training included understanding the association’s core conservation concepts, formulating benchmarks, implementing a K-12 education process, and integrating outdoor skills-based education into state education standards, among other topics.
The FWC’s core concepts for conservation education have been refined and will be part of a consistent messaging effort in Florida and nationally. These ideas communicate what every citizen should know and understand about fish, wildlife and their conservation and management:
Concept 1: Fish and wildlife belong to us all, and the FWC manages and protects these resources on our behalf.
Concept 2: Regulations are sometimes necessary to conserve natural resources for generations to come and to keep people safe, whether they are harvesting or observing wildlife.
Concept 3: All living things benefit from a healthy and diverse environment.
Concept 4: Fish and wildlife conservation and management are solidly rooted in science and balance the needs of people with consideration for maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife, as well as their habitats.
Concept 5: Fish and wildlife habitat conservation provides human-health, recreation, aesthetic and economic benefits.
Concept 6: The future of Florida’s fish and wildlife depends on citizens and partners working together with the FWC.
Concept 7: Fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing and boating are appropriate recreational uses of Florida’s natural resources; participation in these activities contributes revenue, harvest information and increased public support to fish and wildlife management.
Concept 8: Everyone has the opportunity to participate in fish and wildlife recreation. That opportunity implies a responsibility to take care of nature’s resources, stay safe and respect the rights and property of others.
Concept 9: The FWC uses a variety of funding sources to manage Florida’s fish and wildlife resources for everyone. Floridians should know that when they buy licenses and permits, register their vehicles or buy and sell property, they help support fish and wildlife conservation.
Concept 10: Fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, boating and other nature-based activities provide people with millions of days of outdoor recreation and generate nearly $15 billion for Florida’s economy each year (2011-12 Programs of the FWC).
Concept 11: Habitat management, protection and restoration help sustain and conserve ecosystems and benefit Florida’s fish, wildlife and human populations.
Concept 12: Enforcement of conservation and safety laws requires an educated, coordinated and consistent effort.
It is the FWC’s hope that as people attain a greater understanding and respect for these core concepts of fish and wildlife conservation, we will all work together with a greater sense of purpose to provide outstanding recreational opportunities for generations to come.
Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling 888-404-3922, *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or texting to Tip@MyFWC.com. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing or scr.bi/Fish-busters for more Fish Busters’ columns.
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