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Hooking youth: Fishing is a pathway to nature for America's children

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Old June 7th 07, 06:40 AM posted to rec.scouting.usa,rec.outdoors.fishing,alt.fishing,misc.kids
Fred Goodwin, CMA
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Default Hooking youth: Fishing is a pathway to nature for America's children

Hooking youth: Fishing is a pathway to nature for America's children


Mamie Parker
Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Waters, long-coursed downstream, press on me still.

The lunges of memorable fish linger in the eddies of my mind. Bright
waters beckon this private vice of mine, fishing.

And my recollections, no matter how old, always have the tenor of
springtime, when all things are new.

Fishing fixes me to places where I really feel alive. As a young girl
and even today the experience carries a vestige of adventure and
wildness - an escape from the artifices of man.

As I reflect on National Fishing and Boating Week, which is this week,
it pains me some children don't experience nature as I have.

A recent book by Richard Louv, called "Last Child in the Woods: Saving
Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder," has brought into the
national dialogue the condition of today's children and in particular
their poverty of outdoors experiences.

Electric cords tether them to the indoors while diabetes and obesity
have soared, Louv reports. Increasingly they suffer from ADHD; they're
shuttled to and from pre-planned events, with little chance for
spontaneous and creative play.

Think about this: you don't see many children playing outside anymore.
It's a simple observation, but telling. The dearth of youthful
experience in nature makes us all the poorer.

Recent scientific research at Cornell University reports what I
instinctively know. The Cornell study of 2,000 adults by professors
Nancy Wells and Kristi Lekies revealed in the journal, Children, Youth
and Environments, that kids who fish and have unstructured time
outdoors grow into adults who care more about conservation and the

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service intends to enrich lives with
introductions to nature. During this week of observing fishing and
boating, most of our 70 National Fish Hatcheries across the nation
invite thousands of children and adults to fishing derbies at
hatcheries or on waters supported by fish from our hatcheries.

But we're going to do one better.

Congress gave the service a charge in the National Fish Hatchery
Volunteer Act of 2006, requiring us to create educational guidelines
and make use of our hatcheries and fisheries field stations across the
nation as outdoor classrooms.

In October, Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Kentucky launches the
first environmental education curricula with training sessions for
staff, volunteers and teachers from local schools public and private.

Curricula standards will follow national guidelines and relate to
those of the local schools, providing the chance for students to
increase their science literacy and their awareness of nature with
personal hands-on experience with fish and their habitats.

It's my ardent hope we touch the lives of youth by planting a germ of
an idea that nature matters, that conservation matters.

Our work with the state fish and game agencies and conservation groups
matters - not just for conservation, but for people.

In July, the copper-colored Gila trout in the southwest New Mexico
will be open to fishing for the first time since the 1950s. Witness
also our work restoring lake trout in the Great Lakes, at the same
time monitoring a novel but serious fish disease called viral
hemorrhagic septicemia.

Developments we've made in fish nutrition help steelhead on the West
Coast and Atlantic salmon in the northeast. It falls upon our
scientists to marshal the rigorous research necessary to have the Food
and Drug Administration approve new aquatic animal drugs for the good
of conservation, commerce and people.

Fishing surely has its values, intrinsic and otherwise. The sport has
produced an enduring body of literature. This favorite of American
pastimes supports commerce and creates livelihoods for people; the
welfare of people and families depend on quality fishing. And for
youth, fishing is an entr, toward feeding their innate curiosity about

This is circuitous, like a lazy oxbow river turns back toward itself:
healthy habitats mean healthy fish, healthy economies and healthy

We need young people in the circle; we need them outdoors where nature
will nurture them as they grow - and they'll grow to nurture nature.

Fishing is surely a way there.

Parker is the assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
in Washington, D.C. She is an avid angler and member of the Arkansas
Outdoor Hall of Fame.


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