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The West is filled with iconic landscapes, most of them public. With rod in hand, shotgun or rifle shouldered, most of us have experienced the bounty public lands provide. And from our earliest days in the field when any body of water or forest held unseen potential, to our current, often thoughtfully planned excursions, public lands have always been there to provide opportunity.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation highlights the value of public lands for hunters and anglers.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation highlights the value of public lands for hunters and anglers.

For many, the true American dream is pursuing North America’s trophy big game on the West’s vast open spaces. It’s the epitome of DIY – a complete hunting or fishing trip in the West – and also a testament to our sporting nature. It’s all there: the planning, the practice, the pursuit, the stalk, the shot and the harvest.

This sporting heritage is hard to quantify on a personal level. The value of days spent afield alone or with great friends and family, transcends material possessions. The value of public lands, however, can be quantified. The National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) new report, Valuing Our Western Public Lands: Safeguarding Our Economy and Way of Life, illustrates the value and scope of our western lands and sends a clear message that these lands define the American landscape and our national identity.

The bulk of the vast open spaces are in the West, where they have generated jobs and revenue from commodity production, tourism and recreation, including hunting and fishing. As the western economy changes from one dominated by natural resource production to one distinguished by knowledge- and service-based industries, conserving public lands becomes increasingly important as a magnet for businesses and employees seeking a high quality of life.

The NWF report can be found at: http://www.ourpubliclands.org/sites/default/files/files/NWF_PublicLands.pdf

This fat brown trout was caught on public lands on the South Platte, which the author has fished since childhood. Photo by Matt Vincent

This fat brown trout was caught on public lands on the South Platte, which the author has fished since childhood. Photo by Matt Vincent

Several recent studies and surveys within the report found that:

• Many communities near public lands managed for conservation and recreation report higher levels of economic, population and income growth and higher property values.

• The outdoor recreation industry, including fishing and hunting, contributes nearly $650 billion to the U.S. economy and supports more than 6 million jobs. Western public lands provide recreation for people from across the country and world.

• Americans invest nearly $39 billion annually in natural resource conservation, resulting in more than $93 billion in direct economic benefits.

• Extractive, commodity-based industries generate needed materials and energy and provide jobs and revenue, but have been cyclical and have become a smaller part of the overall economy.

“Public Lands are not just where I recreate; they are also where I get my food,” said Armond Acri, a retired chemical engineer who hunts big game and waterfowl. ” I hunt on National Forest, BLM lands, State and Federal Wildlife Refuges, and State Lands.  Each year I hunt grouse, ducks, geese, deer, elk and perhaps antelope.  In a few special years I have had the privilege to hunt bison and bighorn sheep.  Public Land helps me feed both my body and my soul.  I cannot put a price on Public Land, but I know it is one of my most valued possessions.  That is why I fight to preserve the Public Lands we all own.”

Intact habitat and unspoiled backcountry are essential to maintaining fish and wildlife habitat. Proposals to dispose or devalue

Energy development on public lands can eliminate wildlife's ability to migrate from summer to winter habitat as well as adjust to the growing effects of climate change.

Energy development on public lands can eliminate wildlife’s ability to migrate from summer to winter habitat as well as adjust to the growing effects of climate change.

the land threaten a crucial part of our economy. These proposals threaten the fundamental value of ensuring that lands belonging to all Americans stay open to everyone, now and in the future.

Through the NWF report a picture of the changing West emerges. Studies show that many communities near public lands managed for conservation and recreation report higher employment, growth and income levels and higher property values. The service industries, which include health, finance and legal jobs, have diversified the economy and sustain communities when commodity-based industries experience downturns.

Industries traditionally associated with the West – logging, mining, oil and gas drilling – are still important and provide needed materials, but are often cyclical and have become a smaller part of the overall economy.

Former WON staffer Rich Holland is Fishing and Hunting Content Director for SmartEtailing.com, which offers web hosting and online commerce tools to 15,000 independent retailers affiliated with Big Rock Sports. His business, and countless others, lie at the heart of the public lands economy. But again, the value runs deeper than business.

“In the 1940s, my father was in his early teens when his family moved to Los Angeles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” said Holland. “He and his brother immediately discovered the great fishing and hunting available on public lands. That love of the outdoors was passed along to me and I still fish and hunt in many of the same places he frequented as a young man.

“On the other hand, quite a few of his favorite spots have been lost to encroaching development and government designations that prohibit the traditional activities of sportsmen,” he added. “Many of the retailers we work with are located adjacent to public lands, and not just in the West but along the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard and the vast watershed of the Gulf Coast. These businesses rely on continued access to public lands for families who wish to fish and hunt.”

By conserving the cherished lands that drive economic growth, the American people and our national economy will be healthier

Pronghorn on western public lands need large landscapes for their long migration corridors to thrive. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Pronghorn on western public lands need large landscapes for their long migration corridors to thrive. Photo by Lew Carpenter

and more sustainable for generations to come.

So what does it all mean in today’s world? The report was created to bring the importance of public lands into the national dialogue. Several Western legislatures and members of Congress have shown they are out of touch with the public’s support for keeping public lands in public hands.

The last two congressional sessions, lawmakers introduced dozens of bills seeking to diminish protection of public land, require the federal government to sell millions of acres of the land or turn the land over to the states. State legislators and congressional members behind proposals to dispose of public lands claim that westerners believe federal management of the lands constrains natural resource development, thus depriving states of the economic benefits. In fact, the measures contradict the majority of western public opinion and threaten the region’s economy, which benefits from the diverse businesses attracted and supported by conserving public lands.

The next generation of anglers and hunters are relying on today’s sportsmen to conserve fish and wildlife habitat so they have the same opportunities to recreate on public lands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

The next generation of anglers and hunters are relying on today’s sportsmen to conserve fish and wildlife habitat so they have the same opportunities to recreate on public lands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

As a sportsman from the West I have fished from Alaska to the Gulf Coast, Baja to Idaho – and many places in between – almost exclusively on public lands. Certainly there is a place for the magnificent private-land opportunities in North America – but for the common man, nothing beats the landscapes his forefathers created, paid for with his tax dollars, equipment purchases and license fees, and which is waiting with open arms for him to conserve for his children and the generations to follow.

If you care about this American heritage, your access to public lands and wildlife, and your ability to share this with your children and grandchildren, then you need to inform yourself about the positions your elected officials are taking on public lands issues. Moreover, you need to communicate your positions to your elected officials. This is the essence of representative democracy and it is more important than ever in a time when big money is exerting enormous influence.

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New study cites reasons why anglers don’t fish and what will get them back on the water

Alexandria, VA – March 15, 2012 – A 2007 study of state fishing license sales revealed that a majority of Americans who identify themselves as anglers don’t fish every year. The sportfishing industry, through the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), sought to find out why not, and perhaps more importantly, what these self-professed anglers do instead of fishing. The findings of that follow-up study – On the Fence About Fishing – conducted by Southwick Associates and Responsive Management on ASA’s behalf examines why anglers do and don’t fish, as well as offers recommendations about what will get them back on the water.

“With an estimated $1 billion generated by anglers each year for fisheries conservation, habitat restoration and angler access, there is much at stake in making it easier for people to enjoy recreational fishing,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “The future of fishing and fisheries conservation depends on active anglers. These new findings provide information to help us to be more effective in attracting new anglers and keeping current anglers active.”

The primary reason cited by survey and focus group participants for not fishing was “not enough time,” most often due to changes in family, work or school obligations. Whether time considerations are real or perceived, all people still seek some sort of recreational escape that offers them fun, relaxation and quality time with family and friends. In choosing activities that replaced fishing, angling was often seen as less convenient than other pursuits.

Key outdoor activities found to compete with fishing include hunting, camping, hiking, golfing, gardening and trail running or walking for fitness. Indoor activities included watching television, cooking and reading. Anglers—whether still active or lapsed—largely prefer outdoor activities to indoor ones. That leaves abundant opportunities to attract lapsed anglers back to the water.

Key recommendations cited in the report to attract and retain anglers include:

Emphasize Fun, Relaxation, Family and Friends – Industry and agency fishing promotions and messaging must emphasize these components of fishing with a strong focus on how simple and fun recreational fishing is for men and women, boys and girls, novice and avid angler alike.

Increase Convenience – Because most anglers do not live in rural areas, fishing opportunities and access in urban and suburban locations must be provided, promoted and protected. Programs that lend equipment and provide simple, affordable instruction can help in this effort.

Invite Someone To Go Fishing – An interesting finding in the research was that many lapsed anglers said they would readily go fishing if someone simply invited them to go.
“Active anglers inviting others to join them on the water could well be the most cost-effective and measurably simple way to improve overall angler numbers,” noted Robertson. “The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s Anglers’ Legacy program is an excellent example of how avid anglers can help novice and lapsed anglers get back on the water.”

To review the report summary or the complete technical report presenting full details, visit http://www.SouthwickAssociates.com.

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DENVER – Colorado Parks and Wildlife is teaming up with the Colorado Department of Education to gather public feedback on a draft Environmental Education Plan. The plan is part of a package of initiatives called for in House Bill 10-1131. Those initiatives are aimed at improving young people’s knowledge of the environment and increasing their opportunities to get outdoors.

“Environmental education is an important first step in maintaining Colorado’s legacy as a beautiful place to live and recreate,” said Tabbi Kinion, who coordinates educator outreach for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We hope hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, outdoor enthusiasts, landowners and businesses will get involved by participating in the series of meetings planned around the state.”

The draft plan will be explained and comments accepted from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the following dates and locations:

Monday, Feb. 13, Poudre Learning Center (8313 West F St) Greeley
Wednesday, Feb. 15, Durango Public Library (1900 E. 3rd Ave) Durango
Thursday, Feb. 16, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Hunter Education Bldg. (6060 Broadway) Denver
Wednesday, Feb. 22, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (711 Independent Ave) Grand Junction
Wednesday, Feb. 22, Rawlings Public Library (100 E. Abriendo Ave) Pueblo

Anyone who cannot attend one of the meetings can review the draft and comment online through the Colorado Department of Education website at http://www.cde.state.co.us/otl/environmentaleducationplanhtm.

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us.

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In recent surveys conducted on HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com, responses revealed sportsman overwhelmingly take the time to introduce kids to the joys of hunting and fishing. Asked if in the past 12 months they had taken a child hunting or fishing, just over 45 percent of hunters said they had taken a son, daughter, nephew, niece or other young person hunting, while a whopping 61 percent of fishermen said they had taken a child fishing.

While the relation of the child to the angler would be assumed to most often be a son or a daughter that is the case only half of the time. The survey revealed 30 percent were nephews, nieces or another young relative; 15 percent were an unrelated child and 4 percent was as part of an outing with a Boy Scout troop, church group or other youth organization.

Where hunting was concerned, the relation of the child to the hunter was a son or a daughter 54 percent of the time. The survey revealed 29 percent were nephews, nieces or another young relative; 14 percent were an unrelated child and 4 percent were as part of an outing with a Boy Scout troop, church group or other youth organization.

“These numbers certainly boost the future of hunting, fishing and conservation as more young people are introduced to and learn the joys of these sports,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com. “While every child taken hunting or fishing may not continue doing so as an adult, it’s expected a good number of them will.”

To help continually improve, protect and advance this treasured way of life, all anglers are encouraged to participate in the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com. Each month, participants who complete the survey are entered into a drawing for one of five $100 gift certificates to the sporting goods retailer of their choice.

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