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Youth Fishing, Aquatic Education Get Boost from Fish & Boat Commission Grants

Sport fishing, boating and aquatic resource education programs aimed at youth received a boost this week with the awarding of more than $67,000 in grants from the Fish and Boat Commission.

Eighteen organizations received Sportfishing and Aquatic Resource Education Grants from the PFBC to develop or expand programs that teach fishing and boating skills or educate participants about waterways and the organisms that live within them. A total of 47 applications were received from sportsman's clubs, school districts, community groups and county agencies, with funding requests exceeding $194,000.

"The Sportfishing and Aquatic Resource Education Grants program expands on the Commission’s long-standing commitment to youth education. Supporting grass roots efforts such as those receiving grants enables the Commission to accomplish its goals in angler recruitment and angler retention while leveraging our dollars,” said Dr. Doug Austen, PFBC Executive Director. “I’m excited to see some of the outcomes of these projects as research shows that good, well-structured education programs such as these lead to kids increasing their interest in fishing and boating more, improving their skills, and helping them build a greater sense of aquatic stewardship and outdoor ethics.”

Statistics from the National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife Recreation show that in 1980, 26 percent of the Pennsylvania kids aged 6-15 fished. In 1995, that number climbed to 41 percent, but dropped to 35 percent in 2000.

The Commission currently spends about $450,000 annually on such efforts. Currently 45,000 children receive the Pennsylvania League of Angling Youth (PLAY) newsletter from the PFBC four times a year; 8,000 Pennsylvania school teachers have been trained and use the PFBC’s aquatic education curriculum; and more than 400 PFBC fishing skills instructors teach thousands of children in angling basics annually. In addition, the Commission provides equipment and support for 41 free tackle loaner sites statewide.

Increased funding for grassroots initiatives is one of the cornerstones of a Commission initiative to dramatically expand youth-oriented programming with revenues generated from a proposed low-cost fishing license for anglers 12-15 years of age. This approach, said Austen, will enable the program to grow not only in dollars distributed, but in the number of youth as well as adults benefiting from new and expanding programs.

"The volume and quality of applications we have received in the two years we’ve offered Sportfishing and Aquatic Resource Education Grants shows there’s clearly a demand for even more of this type of programming in Pennsylvania. The challenge is to provide the resources necessary to re-engage youth in outdoor activities. Succeeding in this effort is critical to the future of sportfishing and building a more environmentally connected citizenry,” Austen said.

A list of grants awarded is available online.


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