by William A. Hyatt
R3, or recruitment, retention, and reactivation, is the newest buzz word being bantered about Fish and Wildlife Agencies. At first glance, R3 seems like nothing new. After all, it is just another way of saying that our agencies need to pay close attention to the ever-changing interests and behavior of our customers if we are to remain a vital force for conservation, hunting, and fishing through the 21st century. But, it is something new, really new.
While agencies like ours have always understood the need to recruit new sportsmen and women—witness our tremendously successful Conservation Education/Firearms Safety and Aquatic Resource Education programs—we have not historically recognized the importance of retaining and reactivating participants or understood the impact of “churn” on our customer base. Most of us have grown up thinking that the majority of hunters and anglers purchase a license each and every year. However, recent data have revealed this is simply not the case. In fact, participation rates of two or three years out of five are more the norm (this is “churn”) and many people stop buying a license at some point due to unrelated life events and simply do not return to the sport.
Why is this so important?
I’ve previously written about the amazing contributions hunters and anglers make in supporting conservation through the purchase of licenses and gear. By now, I hope all of Connecticut’s hunters and anglers know that 100% of the money they pay for licenses and permits comes back to our Agency and is used to fund natural resource programs. But, it’s not just about the money!
Conservation of our fish, wildlife, and natural landscape is a quality of life issue that affects not only us, but our children and all subsequent generations. Our collective ability to succeed in conserving critical habitat, public access for fishing and hunting, or just enjoying nature is a function of having both the financial resources and political will to get the job done and done right. Funding provided by sportsmen is our foundation and the large number of hunters and anglers, found across all walks of life in Connecticut, are the engine that makes all of this possible.
Sportsmen spend a huge amount of time in the woods and on the waters learning what they need to know to be successful. In the process, they absorb a great deal of knowledge on how natural systems work and develop an instinctive feel for what is truly needed to conserve fish and wildlife. Along with this comes a passion for wild places and, oftentimes, a lifelong commitment to hunting and fishing traditions and environmental stewardship. In short, these sportsmen become the public’s most knowledgeable, passionate, and effective conservationists. This is why our Agency has invested so deeply in conservation education, youth hunting days, pheasant stocking, trout parks, community fishing areas, free fishing days, and Connecticut Hunting and Fishing Day.
Let’s get back to R3 and the need to do even more.
Going forward to help motivate and inspire, we will make hunting and fishing information more convenient as we deliver interactive maps, posts on social media, and live stream about fish and wildlife (check out our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/CTFishAndWildlife). We also will be emailing relevant news and information through monthly newsletters and exploring truly innovative methods for contacting and encouraging lapsed sportsmen to get back outdoors.
However, we cannot do this alone. To be successful, we need to call on each of you to be on the lookout for friends and family members who used to hunt and fish but no longer do. We need you to reach out to these folks and help them return to the outdoors. Often all that is needed is an invitation; your excitement and passion will carry the day. Please join me in making a pledge for 2018 to re-introduce someone to hunting, take a kid or a friend fishing, buy someone a license, or invite a nonmember to your club. You will be doing them a favor and also helping future generations and all of Connecticut in the process.
William A. Hyatt of Glastonbury is Chief of the Bureau of Natural Resources in the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. This first appeared in the Connecticut Angler’s Guide. The Bureau can be reached at (860) 424-3010. The DEEP Bureau of Natural Resources celebrated 150 Years of Natural Resource Conservation in Connecticut in 2016.