There is a great thirst for knowledge about the natural wonders of Idaho, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) is working hard to meet the public demands for educational opportunities.
"Conservation education is one of the most important tools that wildlife managers have for opening the minds of citizens to the value and complexity of conservation, as well as the enjoyment that can be realized from fish and wildlife resources," said Kevin Frailey, IDFG conservation education supervisor.
But providing an understanding of the value of conserving our natural resources faces many challenges. In 1950, approximately 71 percent of the world's population was rural. People grew their own food. They hunted, fished, trapped and watched much of the natural world transpire while doing so. Today, the majority of the world's population lives in an urban setting and watches the natural world transpire on television.
"How do we contend with an ever-growing population that has never seen a hawk kill a rabbit, heard the call of a wild turkey, felt the tug of a fish on the end of a line, or even picked up a frog from a pond?" he said.
Because like most states, IDFG is funded largely through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, and federal excise taxes on sporting equipment, Frailey credits sportsmen and sportswomen with helping fund the majority of IDFG's conservation education efforts. "True hunters and anglers have always recognized that they have a responsibility to pass along their heritage of conservation to the next generation," he said.
But in the wake of changing demographics and declining participation in hunting and fishing, most agencies including IDFG, are now focused on hunter/angler recruitment and retention programs. Because hunters and anglers pay most of the bills, this certainly makes sense.