FWC officers encourage conservation every day, not just Earth Day
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Media contact: Katie Purcell, 850-459-6585
After spending the past several weeks at home taking care of my newborn daughter, I have a new appreciation for the dependency of children. But while my daughter relies on me for all of her basic needs, I know there are also other things I can do for her – things that all of us can provide for today’s youth.
I want her to grow up with an appreciation for the outdoors, particularly in her home state, where four generations before her have fished, hunted, boated and farmed. In order to ensure that generations after her can do the same, she’ll need to have someone teach her the importance of protecting and preserving our natural resources and enjoying them safely.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has programs to do just that, including its ever-expanding Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), kids’ fishing clinics, youth hunting program and more.
Did you know that FWC officers are a vital part of that effort? So far in 2014, they’ve interacted with over 3,000 children through FYCCN events and other community activities, fishing clinics, planned hunts and school visits.
Just this week, in celebration of Earth Day, FWC staff hosted a “Creating the Next Generation That Cares” event at the state Capitol. The event was designed to inspire the next generation of Floridians to care about protecting its valuable natural resources. Over 400 schoolchildren attended and learned about ways to enjoy the outdoors safely and responsibly. FWC officers displayed some equipment to teach how they use it to patrol Florida’s woods and waters, and one of their K-9 officers even showed up to demonstrate his detection skills!
In January, four FWC officers assisted with an annual youth hunt at a ranch in St. Lucie County. The officers, along with members of FWC’s youth hunting program, helped the kids sight in their rifles and reviewed firearm safety and hunting rules before they went out. Some of the officers even returned on their own time to help the kids track and clean a deer that had been harvested.
In addition to working at planned outreach events, officers’ daily patrol activities also set an example for our youth by promoting conservation and safe recreation.
In February, a man and his 14-year-old grandson were small-game hunting in the Ocala Wildlife Management Area when they became separated. The boy was missing for four hours in cold, wet weather before law enforcement was contacted. FWC officers worked with the local sheriff’s office and searched for two hours in thick brush and marshes. Fortunately, they found him before he sustained any injuries.
While much of the work FWC officers do with our youth is positive and proactive, there are times when they have to address negative situations. Unfortunately, not everyone is always as conscientious about protecting our natural resources as they should be.
At the end of the regular migratory bird season, there is a special two-day waterfowl season for youth to help give them a chance to get outdoors and harvest some ducks. During this year’s season in January, FWC officers were working in a stormwater treatment area in Palm Beach County when they saw several adults illegally taking advantage of the extra hunting time. The officers watched as four adults shot at ducks, which is not allowed during the youth season, before the eight kids were able to shoot.
The officers took the opportunity to talk with the hunting group, explaining the purpose of the youth hunts, and ultimately issued citations to the adults. While this was an unfortunate situation, it taught everyone involved a valuable lesson and protected the resource for other kids who may have been out hunting that day.
FWC officers and other staff have a big responsibility in helping our youth get engaged in the outdoors. But it is the responsibility of all of us, whether parents or not, boaters, hunters, bird watchers, anglers or hikers, to not only protect our valuable natural resources, but also set an example for our youth. We can do that by practicing ethical hunting and fishing habits, getting a kid involved in outdoor activities or taking part in the FWC’s ongoing efforts. Celebrate Earth Day every day!
To learn more about FWC’s youth efforts or becoming an FWC officer, visit MyFWC.com/Get-Involved.