The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in unprecedented change. Phrases like “self-quarantine” and “social distancing,” that were completely unheard of several months ago, are now a part of our daily vocabulary. As we adjust to this “new normal,” America’s sportsmen and women, a group that we are proud to represent as members of the Idaho Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, have found a way to pursue their outdoor passions despite the obstacles. Sportsmen and women are setting an example for safe and responsible recreational while participating in outdoor activities like hunting, fishing and recreational shooting.
Activities like hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and many other outdoor activities have provided an outlet for Americans to safely recreate since they can be enjoyed while practicing social distancing and adhering to other COVID-19 safety guidelines. As restrictions start to ease, Americans are flocking to the woods, waters, fields and trails to take advantage of our outdoor resources, with many discovering nature’s wonders for the first time.
This newfound interest in outdoor recreation represents an invaluable opportunity to introduce Idahoans to activities like hunting and fishing and the vital role sportsmen and women play in conservation. In addition to the numerous documented mental and physical health benefits from participating in outdoor activities, maintaining access to hunting and fishing opportunities gives Idahoans a chance to procure their own locally sourced meat. Due to many of the impacts of COVID-19, this ability to be self-reliant is at a premium. With all of this in mind, these unprecedented times represent a chance for a new generation of sportsmen and women to discover the passion that many of us already share. Whether it is through scouting for upcoming fall hunting seasons, or landing that first largemouth bass, now is the time to lead by example and plant the seeds for the next generation of sportsmen and women.
Increased participation in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting has enormous conservation benefits as well through the American System of Conservation Funding. This “user pays-public benefits” approach relies on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and self-imposed excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing tackle and motorboat fuel to fund many state fish and wildlife management agencies. In addition, these activities support local businesses which have become incredibly important. In fact, recent surveys report that Idaho’s 534,000 hunters and anglers spent $1.02 billion while pursuing their outdoor passions on things like guns and ammunition, appropriate clothing and gear, or even a meal in town afterward!
As the state begins to reopen, more Idahoans will head outside with their friends and family. It is up to sportsmen and women to practice responsible recreation, showing by example that our outdoor pursuits can be performed safely. This can be accomplished by following a few simple guidelines:
• Stay home if you are feeling any symptoms of COVID-19
• Adhere to best practices for avoiding COVID-19: Wear a face mask if going in public or around others and social distance if with others, follow local guidelines
• Plan ahead; purchase licenses and park passes online, if available.
• Recreate close to home
• Follow state and federal guidelines
• Pack out your trash as a courtesy to others and to avoid the appearance of overuse
• Share your adventures in a respectful way on social outlets
To learn more about how others are using these challenging times as an opportunity to spend more time outdoors, search for #ResponsibleRecreation on social media. For more information on recreating responsibly, or to take the Responsible Recreation pledge and help lead by example, visit www.responsible-recreation.org.
This column was written by Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, and Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls.