Tribune editorial: We can't lose our connection to the outdoors – Bismarck Tribune


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It’s disappointing to see the continued decline in fishing license sales in North Dakota. It could be a harbinger of a bigger problem.
Fishing license sales have shown a steady decline during the last six years in the state, and it’s part of a national trend. However, there’s been an increase in interest in hunting. Fishing license sales by mid-October were down by 10,936 compared to the same time last year.
Hunting licenses were up by 8,629 while combination licenses were down by nearly 2,000.
North Dakota Game and Fish Department Region 3 Coordinator Cayla Bendel blames aging anglers along with a decrease in interest in outdoor sports activities for the drop in license sales. The weather also has played a role.
The recent droughts endured by the state have limited boat ramp access, lowered water levels and impacted fish. It’s been more difficult to get on the water, and once there the fishing hasn’t been the best.
One of Bendel’s jobs is to educate the public and promote outdoor sports. It’s important because money from license sales and a federal excise tax fund Game and Fish programs and state conservation programs. The excise tax comes from firearm and boat purchases.
Conservation programs play a key role in providing an enjoyable outdoor experience for North Dakotans while protecting the environment. It’s understandable during stretches of bad weather that there could be a drop-off in activity. The droughts have been sporadic, with decent summers sprinkled in.
The Tribune editorial board fears our younger generations are less interested in outdoor activities, and more attuned to social media and online games. That’s not healthy. Hunting, fishing, swimming, bird-watching and other outdoor activities provide exercise and fresh air. The nation has obesity problems, which result in other health issues.
Over the years North Dakota’s great outdoor opportunities have attracted people. Theodore Roosevelt came to North Dakota to revive his emotional and physical health. He fell in love with the western Badlands.
People from other states and countries continue to come here to experience the wealth of outdoor activities. We need to encourage North Dakotans of all ages to enjoy the outdoors.
That’s why Bendel’s role is so valuable as she works to “recruit, retain and reactivate” interest in the outdoors. It’s no easy task with so many other activities available to distract people, but it can be done.
Many outdoor activities can be enjoyed in an inexpensive manner. Yes, you can invest in a lot of pricey equipment in all sports, but it’s not a requirement. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer relied on basic fishing poles and worms to catch fish. It was fiction based on real life.
Bendel explained what motivates her and should prompt everyone to consider outdoor activities.
“I don’t want to think about a future where we don’t have a wild place for people to explore and experience intimate moments in nature while hunting, fishing, going for a hike or scouting,” she said, adding, “If there aren’t people around to preserve those, then we can lose them.”
That’s the last thing North Dakotans should want to happen.

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