What will it take to get new generations of potential hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts excited about and invested in the future of Michigan’s natural resources?
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is going straight to the source – inviting young people between the ages of 14 and 18 who are passionate about the state’s great outdoors to apply for membership to the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) Youth Advisory Council on Fishing, Hunting, Trapping and Conservation.
The council – referred to informally as the Youth Conservation Council – was created by NRC resolution earlier this year to provide a forum where a diverse group of conservation-minded youth can share ideas and opinions about the best ways to 1.) protect, promote and enhance the state’s outdoor recreation, and 2.) create new opportunities for consumptive (e.g., hunting, fishing, trapping) and non-consumptive (e.g., hiking, wildlife viewing, kayaking) uses of Michigan’s natural resources.
Members of the council will:
Take part in broad-ranging discussions about Michigan’s outdoors and the current and future recreation opportunities available statewide;
Make recommendations to both the NRC and the DNR about policy, program and legislative changes that members believe will boost young residents’ interest and involvement in the outdoors; and
Gain valuable leadership skills and public-service experience that will aid them in the future.
Members are expected to participate in at least four meetings each year. Two of them will be offered as weekend training sessions at a state facility; the other two will be shorter meetings with possible attendance through teleconferencing and/or Web-based applications.
Applications are available on the DNR website, along with a roster of frequently asked questions that offers more detail about the Youth Conservation Council. Visit www.michigan.gov/dnr, choose Education and Outreach, and then find the Youth Conservation Council information under Programs for Families and Individuals.
Completed applications must be postmarked by Jan. 18, 2013, and should be sent to:
ATTN: NRC Youth Conservation Council
P.O. Box 30028
Lansing, MI 48909
According to Ray Rustem, DNR coordinator for the council, the timing couldn’t be better.
“We’re losing a generation of kids who are growing up with few, if any, experiences in the outdoors,” said Rustem. “If these are the people we hope will carry on Michigan’s strong tradition of natural resources conservation, the best way to help them forge a connection to the outdoors is to engage kids in conversation. Let’s hear what they think. What are the right ways to make the outdoors an accessible, meaningful part of their lifestyle?”
Recent studies suggest that kids, on average, spend nearly 53 hours per week using electronic devices. When combined with the time devoted to school and organized activities, there’s very little left for unstructured play and exploration outdoors.
That’s a trend the DNR and NRC hope to reverse with efforts like the Youth Conservation Council.
John Matonich, NRC member and chair of the NRC Advisory Committee on Marketing and Outreach, stressed that the Youth Conservation Council is not just for those who hunt and fish.
“We want a cross-section of youth that can provide honest, insightful feedback about all aspects of outdoor recreation and involvement – the things they like to do, the things that maybe they’ve been hesitant to try, and what it will take to replace that hesitation with curiosity and confidence to get outdoors,” Matonich said.
“Too many of today’s kids are missing out on life-changing experiences in the outdoors,” he added. “With their help, we urgently want to remedy that.”
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.
Image courtesy Michigan DNR