By Bo Rivard
Chairman, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Just 30 years ago, hunting was a way of life across the U.S. with more than 17 million adult hunters. The baby boomers, like generations before them, gained an appreciation for wildlife conservation and learned useful outdoor skills from their parents and grandparents. Today, hunting remains an important way for people to connect with family, friends, and the outdoors as well as experience delicious, locally sourced protein. However, conservation leaders have grown increasingly concerned about declines in hunting participation nationally. In Florida, thanks to forward thinking by the state’s hunting community, hunter numbers have increased slightly in recent years but current numbers are below 1991 levels and haven’t kept pace with the growth of the state’s total population.
When baby boomers age out, hunter numbers are expected to fall as fewer young people are replacing their ranks. Knowing the valuable contributions hunters make to conservation, the question becomes, what can be done to uphold hunting and keep the conservation funding model strong? To address that need, conservation leaders launched a national effort designed to recruit new hunters, retain current participants, and reactivate those who have lapsed (R3). These R3 strategies formed the basis of Florida’s state-specific initiative, which depends on all partners and stakeholders pooling their resources and expertise to identify and reach new audiences, provide tools, training and information, and then evaluate those education and outreach efforts to make program improvements.
You can contribute to Florida’s R3 efforts by becoming an ambassador for hunting. People who don’t hunt must understand hunters’ support of conservation benefits everyone, hunters and nonhunters alike, who enjoys wildlife and public access to those resources. Share with family and friends how revenue from hunting licenses and Federal Duck Stamps and hunter donations to conservation organizations help fund wildlife and habitat management. And include how the Wildlife Restoration Program, funded through your purchase of hunting and shooting sports equipment, are a significant source of financial support for conservation.
Another way you can plug into Florida’s R3 efforts is by volunteering for the Youth Hunting Program, hunter safety program, or events designed to introduce adults to hunting. (To volunteer, visit MyFWC.com and click on “Get Involved.”) Someone taught you how to hunt and now is your chance to return the favor. Take someone hunting who’s new to the experience such as a neighbor, co-worker, friend or family member. And finally, becoming an active member of a conservation organization will help leverage your conservation voice as well as meet others who care about hunting and conservation. We hope you’ll join us and our partners to help secure the future for hunting and conservation.
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