Many legislators and public officials in West Virginia are taking note of how many people are participating in outdoor activities when compared to other historical periods. Although more people can be seen outside walking or running these days, the overall trend has been down regarding physical exercise. West Virginia isn’t called the Mountain State for nothing, and with all the crazy outdoors locations it has to offer, it’s about time to promote them!
Part of the reason is how jobs have changed over the past few decades. There are fewer farmers, and that number is going down even more in today’s economy (which contrary to popular belief isn’t actually doing all that well when you take into consideration overall gross domestic product — which is the best indicator we have of a healthy economy).
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Section Chief Paul Johansen said, “This is the single most important issue facing our group today.”
There are also many fewer people who take the time to hunt or fish for their own food. While some people might be depressed by the numbers (only 12 percent of West Virginians hunt, and only 4 percent fish), there’s a bigger problem: permits for those activities are how the state pays for conservation efforts, which have been struggling for a long while.
Director of Programs at the Wildlife Management Institute Matt Dunfee said, “The wildlife in America belongs to everybody, but only about 10 to 20 percent are paying for it. That’s extremely inefficient.”
That’s why the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources decided to concoct a plan to overcome these obstacles. They want to implement a movement called “R-3,” which stands for “Recruiting, Retention, and Reactivation.”
What does that mean, exactly? Well, recruiting means getting more people to obtain those licenses by promoting the benefits of hunting and fishing, or just generally being outdoors. Retention means keep those people who have already been recruited so the aforementioned percentages of people enjoying these activities doesn’t flatline in the future. Reactivation means using the financial resources procured to make the outdoors better for everyone.
Dunfee said, “We had been doing a really good job of taking care of our base. We were taking our kids hunting and fishing, and our neighbors’ kids hunting and fishing, but the rest of the nation was moving on without us. It turns out the Baby Boomers were our solid core. We weren’t recruiting new hunters and anglers, we were really just making more of our own culture and America needed us to reach out to them as well.”