Ask any passionate angler, hunter or outdoors person what he or she loves about nature and getting outdoors, and you’ll get an answer based on personal experiences. However, certain key points almost always come up, including spending quality time with friends and family, being physically active while relaxing and getting away from stress, and a love of connecting with nature.
If you inquire about what conservation agencies should do to help people enjoy their experiences, you’ll hear similar themes such as protect the habitat, provide public access and help create the next generation that cares. You’ll also hear concerns expressed about other people and especially the younger generation not understanding the importance of fish and wildlife conservation and the joy and benefits of participating in outdoor recreational opportunities.
Each state has an agency dedicated to fish and wildlife conservation and providing fishing and hunting opportunities to the 88 million Americans 16 years of age or older 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. See Creating the Next Generation that Cares for an overview of the Get Outdoors Florida! Coalition (www.GetOutdoorsFlorida.org) and Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (www.FYCCN.org). These youth programs have gotten off to an amazing start but need your support to reach Floridians with key messages about living a happier, healthier and smarter lifestyle by getting outdoors and enjoying active, nature-based recreation.
FWC staff recently joined educators from 37 state fish and wildlife agencies for a North American Conservation Education Strategy Training Academy. Seven years of research and development in the field of conservation education culminated in the training session, which 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. The training was funded by a grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) and included:
- Understanding AFWA’s Core Conservation Concepts and encouraging states to adapt their own (see Florida’s below).
- Formulating conservation education benchmarks.
- Implementing a kindergarten through high school process for conservation education.
- Using field investigation activities for inquiry-based learning.
- Integrating outdoor skills-based education into state education standards.
- Using best practices for developing stewardship education.
- Learning about the North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and promoting the 75th anniversary of the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program in 2012 (see Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration).
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 management.
Concept 1: The FWC is the agency responsible for leading fish and wildlife resource management in Florida. 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 and allow for safe and sustainable human use of fish and wildlife.
Regulations allow various groups to use or observe fish and wildlife in a fair manner that ensures healthy fish and wildlife populations for current and future generations.
Concept 3: The health and well-being of fish, wildlife and humans depend on the quality and diversity of their environment. All living things benefit from a healthy and diverse environment.
Concept 4: Fish and wildlife can be sustainably used, conserved and restored through science-informed management, which considers the needs of humans as well as those of fish and wildlife. 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. Healthy habitats provide humans with products, maintain environmental cycles, enrich our wellbeing and maintain our basic needs.
Concept 6: Informed, supportive and active citizens and partners with FWC are vital to sustaining Florida’s fish and wildlife. The future of Florida’s fish and wildlife depends on citizens and partners working together with FWC. Fish and wildlife are shared resources, and sustaining thriving populations depends on us all.
Concept 7: Fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing and boating are appropriate uses of Florida’s natural resources, and participation in these activities contributes to fish and wildlife management. Citizens enjoy fish and wildlife recreational activities and have the right to engage in them lawfully. Fish and wildlife recreation can be managed sustainably and can contribute to management through revenue, harvest information and increased public support.
Concept 8: To sustain our fish and wildlife resources, participants in fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing and boating must use safe practices, respect the rights and property of others and understand that fish and wildlife are a shared resource. Everyone has the opportunity to participate in fish and wildlife recreation. Along with that right comes the responsibility of taking care of fish, wildlife and their habitat. Participants must follow safety guidelines to prevent injuries to themselves and others. Respecting the rights and property of others encourages and maintains public support for fish and wildlife recreation.
Concept 9: Knowledge of and support for fish and wildlife funding sources is essential for continued research, management and conservation of these resources.
The FWC uses a variety of funding sources to manage Florida’s fish and wildlife resources for everyone. When Floridians 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). Florida’s year-round fish and wildlife recreational opportunities provide communities with economic benefits and contribute to human quality of life and improved conservation of natural areas.
Concept 11: Protecting, restoring and managing habitat is critical to managing and conserving Florida’s fish and wildlife. Habitat management, protection and restoration help sustain and conserve ecosystems and benefit Florida’s fish, wildlife and human populations.
Concept 12: Proactive and responsive FWC law enforcement services are necessary to protect Florida’s natural resources and its citizens. 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. Together we will provide outstanding recreational opportunities for current generations and help create the next generation that cares.