The COVID-19 curve has begun to flatten, but several conservation organizations are cautioning hunters and anglers to maintain social distancing practices and follow directives set forth by their home states and the Center of for Disease Control and Prevention. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Program helped launch the #ResponsibleRecreation pledge this week. It’s a coordinated effort that includes the National Wild Turkey Foundation, Congressional Sportsman Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
As summer approaches, and in an attempt to return to some sense of normalcy, more of us are heading outdoors to enjoy our public lands and waters. The #ResponsibleRecreation campaign is asking us to do this sensibly. That means maintaining social distancing rules, recreating close to home, and buying licenses and park passes online to avoid unneeded encounters with other people.
“Whether participating in hunting, fishing, shooting sports, or numerous other outdoor activities, individuals and families are getting outside as a means of coping with the challenges of this health crisis,” says Whit Fosburgh, the president and CEO of TRCP. “The conservation community recognizes that this is a privilege, one that sportsmen and women take very seriously. Just as we’ve stepped up to fund conservation efforts and recover at-risk species, hunters and anglers have yet another opportunity to lead by example and ensure that outdoor recreation can continue to delight and facilitate healing for anyone who ventures outside.”
The idea behind the campaign is to showcase hunters, anglers, bird watchers, hikers, etc., spending time outdoors in a safe manner. A handful of states shuttered access to some or all public lands and waters in March and April, but most have opened state and federal lands recently (though some states are only opening select sites). Using the #ResponsibleRecreation hashtag is an opportunity to lead by example, and to show our communities that we can safely return to the woods, lakes, and rivers during these unprecedented times.
“Now more than ever, Americans want to recreate outdoors for the health, physical, and social benefits,” says Jessica Wahl Turner, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “As our country begins to reopen, we encourage outdoor enthusiasts to continue practicing social distancing, respect the communities you visit, and follow the health guidelines applicable to your activities. If we work together to steward the outdoors and keep safety top of mind, we can help our public lands and waters remain open and get our recreation economy and jobs back on track.”
TRCP is also asking anyone who takes the #ResponsibleRecreation pledge to advocate for public access and reach out to politicians and other national decision-makers to support legislation that will improve outdoor recreation infrastructure in the U.S. To learn more, visit responsible-recreation.org.