As many states begin to loosen restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are flocking to outdoor venues, including state parks, beaches and just about any place where it’s possible to have a good time in the sunshine.
Unlike several states, Virginia never totally shut down outdoors activities. Anglers could still use boat ramps to fish and hunters could still access wildlife management areas to hunt. The key was that pandemic prevention protocols needed to be followed. And beyond social distancing and other practices, there was a need for people to act responsibly.
During my reconnoitering of various outdoor venues amid the peak of the restrictions, human responsibility was all over the board.
In some places, people were mindful of their impact based on either the cleanliness or slovenliness of a location. Some places where anglers congregated on shore or near boat ramps were nearly immaculate. Other places were littered with cigarette butts and beer bottle caps, overflowing trash barrels, and fishing line and debris strewn on the river banks and water’s edge.
Last month, several national conservation organizations, such as the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and others, launched a media campaign called #ResponsibleRecreation. It relates to the importance of not letting our outdoor pleasures result in any uptick in infection numbers as well as demonstrating a sound conservation ethic for the landscape and the fish and game we love.
Responsible recreation will help ensure our outdoors remains open.
“As one of the leading organizations supporting the #ResponsibleRecreation campaign, we want to encourage individuals and families to get outside and enjoy the outdoors as a means to cope with the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jeff Crane, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation president. “By participating in simple activities such as sharing hunting and angling adventures in a respectful way on social media and packing out your trash as a courtesy to others and avoid the appearance of overuse, outdoor enthusiasts can help to ensure our outdoor recreational opportunities remain available to the greatest extent possible during these uncertain times.”
For more information about the campaign, visit responsible-recreation.org.
passes U.S. Senate
Last week, the U.S. Senate voted to approve the Great American Outdoors Act, Senate Bill 3422. It’s a bipartisan conservation bill aimed at providing permanent full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which conserves critical lands and helps create access to landlocked public lands through its Making Public Lands Public provision.
The act also creates the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to address maintenance backlogs on federal lands, including national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and Bureau of Land Management lands. Funding will come from a portion of federal revenues from the development of oil, gas, coal or alternative/renewable energy on federal lands and waters.
The NWTF worked to have national forests included. These important forests weren’t included in the original version of the legislation. Now, as passed by the Senate, 15% of the annual funding or up to $285 million annually could be allocated for improving national forests, according to Joel Pederson, NWTF’s director of government affair.
A bipartisan group of 12 House lawmakers, led by Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-South Carolina), introduced companion legislation in the House on June 4.
This is important legislation. Let’s hope none of the polarized politics surrounding us these days forces it off a path to completion.
DGIF changing name
and planning fun run
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will change its name to the Department of Wildlife Resources next month. For those who routinely reference the agency in our communications, the change likely will take some getting used to.
To help celebrate the name change and to benefit the organization’s Restore the Wild initiative, it’s planning a “Run for the Wild,” a virtual 5K run/walk. Registration is $30 and proceeds support habitat projects. Participants can run or walk a course of their choosing at their own pace on July 17, 18 or 19.
Four additional challenges let participants compete for prizes provided by event partners.
They include the Falcon Fierce Challenge, with prizes for the male and female participants completing the run with the fastest finish time, and the Turtle Trot Challenge, for the person achieving the dubious honor of taking the longest time to complete the event. Next is the Flora & Fauna Fanatic Challenge, where participants can take photos of native Virginia wildlife and plants they see along their route. Finally, another photographic angle is the Scenic Seeker Challenge, where runners can submit their most scenic photo from their route.
Registration deadline is July 16. To learn more or register, go to dgif.virginia.gov/run-for-the-wild.
Maryland hunters reported harvesting 4,303 wild turkeys during the 2020 regular spring and junior hunt turkey seasons, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced. This year’s harvest surpassed the previous high of 4,175, set in 2017, and was 8% higher than the 2019 harvest of 4,002 turkeys.
Virginia hunters killed a remarkable 20,525 turkeys this past spring gobbler season, the second highest spring turkey kill on record in Virginia. The record spring came in 2015 (20,580). The 2020 number is up 14.5% from last year.
Final results are in now for multiple states. Kentucky was up 7.5% from last year (29,502 to 31,720). Georgia finished 27% up, with public land success up 35%. Tennessee was up 28% with more than 40,000 turkeys killed. Indiana was up 5.5% and Missouri was up 6.9% with more than 41,000 birds reported.
Success is great; too much success, though, may spell short-term challenges. The pandemic placed many avid turkey hunters, as well as novices, either out of work or school or working from home during the peak of spring gobbler seasons. Many hunters were free to hit the woods every day, all day. This incredible increase in hunting pressure was bound to affect the total turkey kill.