Cuomo: Retain, recruit hunters and anglers

Albany — Specifics are somewhat limited at this point, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State document contains several items showing a focus on outdoor recreation.

Included in that list is a proposal to launch a five-year effort “to recruit half a million new anglers, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts, and reactivate half a million lapsed anglers and hunters.”

Cuomo’s State of the State message, delivered last month, outlines several mechanisms to make that happen, among them:

• A new marketing campaign, coordinated through the I Love NY campaign, targeting millennials and lapsed (hunting and fishing) participants;

• Expansion of the National Archery in the Schools program to teach children proper use of bows and expand use of crossbows;

• Greater availability of the popular I Fish NY programs in state parks, including free rental equipment and training;

• A new smartphone app for the purchase and retention of licenses and harvest reports; and

• An expanded I Bird NY to focus on unique opportunities close to urban and suburban areas, providing wildlife viewing trips and better signage.

The State of the State’s solid inclusion of outdoor recreation brought optimism within the DEC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.

“We will have to see how the funds are allocated to undertake the specific ventures, but it certainly provides focus for DEC (fish and wildlife) staff for enhanced efforts regarding recruitment, retention, and reactivation, enhanced NASP, the new app, and improved access on WMAs – all good stuff,” said Doug Stang, assistant director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Cuomo’s proposal comes with some significant challenges, however. The National Archery in the Schools program is stalled by the loss of its program director and an uncertain fate with its contract with Cornell Cooperative Extension. And the smartphone app may be wrapped into a single state app for all agencies, which has prompted concerns over its effectiveness if that occurs.

Cuomo’s message also called for an additional $60 million investment in NY Works funding to improve state lands – including wildlife management areas – and parks. Included in that effort is a program called Adventure NY, a multi-year recreation campaign designed “to connect more New York families and visitors to the great outdoors,” his State of the State message read.

The goal through the program is to work with DEC and local partners to design and construct more than 75 projects in state land in the first three years of the effort. That work is expected to include rehabilitating campgrounds, upgrading visitor and educational centers, constructing duck blinds, boat launches, and wildlife viewing platforms; handicapped access work.

Cuomo’s message also indicated DEC will “construct infrastructure at Boreas Ponds in the Adirondacks and build trails as part of the ‘Hut-to-Hut’ system that links state lands to community amenities.

The Boreas Ponds tract is currently awaiting an Adirondack Park Agency ruling on access, with sportsmen lobbying heavily during the public hearing process to use the existing road that leads to the ponds.

Cuomo’s State of the State message last month also proposed to:

• Build off the success of the Parks 2020 program and invest an additional $30 million, targeting projects where public dollars will leverage private funding and develop public-private partnerships.

Project highlights include new visitor centers at Watkins Glen and the North Fork of Long Island; new gateways to Walkway over the Hudson; and new cabins and cottages at Green Lakes State Park in Syracuse, Allegany State Park, and on Long Island.

• Connect New Yorkers to outdoor recreation via state land, parks and facilities to encourage them to connect with nature.

• Double the state’s investment in the Connect Kids program through the Environmental Protection Fund to provide free or low-cost transportation to connect schools in undeserved communities with parks and other state properties.

In addition, state parks will accept the National Park Service’s Every-Kid-in-a-Park Pass to grant free entry to state parks for all fourth graders and their families.

• Establish “First-Time Camper Weekends” each summer where New York families, especially from undeserved communities, will have access to gear, expert advice, and low-cost, two-night accommodations at select DEC and parks properties.

• Expand the free Foster Family New Camper program to serve up to 300 New York state foster families and at-risk youth.

• Host Outdoor Days, free events statewide where anyone can try a host of outdoor recreation activities, receive instruction, and trial equipment for challenges and prizes.

• Develop a new, comprehensive Outdoor Travel Guide to assist in planning an outdoor adventure.

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