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The Game Trail

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Photo by Misty Grage Photo by Misty Grage

Matt says, "Get 'em outside!" Free fishing June 13

The sun is shining and the thermometer is flirting with 80 degrees as I sit down to type the latest Game Trail. While the weather was perfect I hope you all had some time to get out and enjoy our great outdoors, especially with the kids.  

I feel strongly about the need for children, especially in today’s world, to experience all that the outdoors can provide. I end this column with the saying “Leave No Child Inside.” That motto—created by author and journalist Richard Louv—is much more a movement than just a saying. School and government programs are being created every year to encourage children to experience the wonders of the outdoors. I would encourage the parents to be the lead or at least a huge part of the process of getting kids involved in outdoor activities.

The number of obese children in the United States is staggering, and we are not immune to it in North Idaho. We are truly blessed with a myriad of outdoor opportunities out our backdoors, yet there’s kids plugged into electronic devices far more than then they should be. According to the Center for Disease Control, children between the ages of six months and six years spend an average of 1.5 hours a day with electronic media and children between the ages of 8 and 18 years spend an average of nearly 6.5 hours a day with electronic media. Another alarming statistic shows only half of America’s kids between the ages of 9 and 13 are involved in outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, and walking. What the heck are we doing to our kids?

As the parent of two girls I understand the challenges of finding the time to get outside as a family, but it has to be done. It’s easy to fall in the trap of structuring our kid’s lives to a fault, with too much parental supervision. How much time are we allowing our kids to explore the world they live , to jump in puddles, chase fish up a creek, or climb trees? Sometimes on hikes I become impatient with my oldest daughter because she is exploring something. “We’ve got things to do... let’s go!” I say. What more important things do we have to do then allowing our children to explore the world? Sports are great; they are good for the body and provide a mechanism for learning discipline, but they don’t provide the opportunity for our kids to discover and use their imagination. We need to have a balance of both.

Through my job I talk to a number of kids in and out of the woods and their parents.  I hear some kids talk about the environment and the earth with rhetoric they hear in schools or from the TV. The earth is wrecked, people are killing the earth, we need to save our planet by recycling; some serious doomsday stuff for our children to be bearing. How and why should their little minds be dealing with such complex issues? Usually the kids who speak like this are not the ones getting outside; subsequently, they’re reading about the outdoors on the Internet or reading emotional or agenda-based propaganda.  We’ve started to create misguided arm-chair naturalists! This occurs because parents aren’t getting their kids outside to connect with the outdoors. We’ve become aliens on our own planet, peering through a bubble into the great outdoors, reading about nature on the Internet, and treating wilderness like a magical far off place, rather than somewhere to hike to and in. We’re bombarded with things that say hands off is the only way to treat nature; when man touches it, it all goes to hell.  Look, don’t touch. Nonsense! Touch with respect, use it wisely, and leave it better than you found it.

The Idaho Children and Nature Network is an organization formed by a conglomeration of agencies, including Idaho Fish and Game, united in reconnecting Idahoan children to their sense of place in nature and promoting a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Their motto “We connect with nature in Idaho, from backyards to mountaintops” hits the nail on the head. Check them out sometime on the web at www.VisitIdaho.org/children-in-nature

Free fishing day in Idaho is June 13 this year. Are you a single mom or parents who have never fished, but would like your kids to learn the fundamentals of fishing? Please being them out to a free fishing day event nearest you. All events are staffed with IDFG employees and volunteers that will not only provide some fishing gear but also some advice and tips if needed. Here’s a list of locations for free fishing day events. Bonner’s Ferry – Snow Creek Pond – 9am to noon. Clark Fork – Clark Fork Lodge Pond – 9am to noon. Priest Lake – Priest Lake Golf Course – 9am to noon. Sandpoint – Round Lake State Park – 9am to noon.

Leave No Child Inside

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Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

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