Passing Lake Conservation Values to the Next GenerationPublished by forester on Tue, 06/11/2019 - 18:46
Traditionally young people began their lake education by fishing. Fishing license sales also provided revenue for a variety of lake based management activities.
But fishing license sales have dropped an estimated 17% in recent years. DNR officials state that as older people have aged out of angling, young people have not moved in to take up the sport. Last year, 2018, was the second lowest sales of fishing license sales in twenty years. The numbers were even more grim for hunting license sales, which were the lowest they had been since 1976.
With support from new legislation, lake associations are well positioned to take action in this area to the benefit of local school kids, aquatic ecosystems and lake association organizations.
The No Child Left Inside legislation passed into law this year as part of the Environment and Natural Resources Funding Omnibus provides $182,000 the first year, and $318,000 the second year to, “provide grants for outdoor environmental, ecological, and other natural-resource-based education and recreation programs serving youth.” These grants can go to public entities, like schools, park districts and nonprofit organizations, including lake associations.
According to a 2017 study of Minnesota’s lake associations by Concordia University, one of the challenges these volunteer organizations face is recruiting younger members. A few factors have aligned to make this legislation particularly timely for lake associations; this year Minnesota rewrote the science standards which guide all school science curriculum, leaning away from learning facts about science to lessons that drive actual scientific inquiry, every science teacher in the state will have to begin adopting new curriculum over the next five years, almost every school in Minnesota is no more than a bike ride away from a school, and aquatic sciences will be an ever more important field in the future.
This combined facts create a wonderful opportunity for lake associations to get local school kids out on lakes doing science, engage the parents, and move more into the civic life of their local communities. Student scientists could do water quality testing, habitat mapping, lake vegetation transects, wildlife improvement projects, limnology studies, water chemistry studies, shoreland restorations and more. Lake Associations could help train and build relationships with the very people who will one day run county and state natural resource and regulatory agencies. Lake associations could bring students from agricultural or urban areas to learn about aquatic ecosystems and the threats they face.
The No Child Left Inside program also includes funding for high school hunting, angling and shooting sports funding: The Environment and Natural Resources Funding Bill signed by Governor Walz also directs $500,000 to school districts and American Indian-controlled tribal contract or grant schools to increase firearms safety, trap shooting, archery, hunting, and angling activities in courses that are consistent with
required state standards for physical education.
This one time funding provides grant funding for nonprofits of $500,000 for high school shooting sports activities and an additional $200,000 for high school angling teams, creating further opportunities for lake associations to engage with local school children, get them out on the water, and educate the next generation of conservationists.
The new law further requires the commissioner of natural resources to develop a basic angling curriculum that includes basic fishing techniques and information about aquatic invasive species, tournament etiquette, conservation, water safety, and related matters. The commissioner must make the basic angling curriculum available without cost to nonprofit organizations operating fishing leagues for high schools.