OLYMPIA - Recreational license purchasers can contribute to youth outdoor education programs under a pilot program recently undertaken by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Washington Wildlife Federation's (WWF) newly formed coalition of outdoor groups.
Each fisher and hunter who purchases a state recreational license online will be able to make a voluntary, tax-deductible contribution of a dollar or more toward the youth programs. Later this spring, those buying licenses in person or by telephone will be able to make similar donations.
The donated funds will be used for outdoor education activities at schools, sport shows, fairs and other events, offering skills training and hands-on fishing, shell fishing, hunting and target shooting experiences.
The pilot outdoor education partnership is being undertaken as part of WDFW's "Go Play Outside" initiative, aimed at encouraging participation in outdoor recreation activities.
Donations from license purchasers are expected to raise approximately $50,000 annually. All donations, except for an administrative fee, will go directly to the Washington Wildlife Federation for outdoor education programs.
"This pilot effort taps into the knowledge, skills and enthusiasm of outdoor groups to deliver quality, hands-on outdoor education to youngsters," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "By working in partnership with non-profit groups we hope to offer increased public service without a corresponding increase in the department's budget or staff."
The Washington Wildlife Federation's affiliate, the Washington Wildlife Coalition, will conduct the youth outdoor education program in cooperation with WDFW. Planned events include participation in Washington State Parks' Shellfish Shindig in April in the Hood Canal area, a middle school field day in Renton in May and youth activities at the Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup in September.
"Such outreach efforts offer kids outdoor experiences they might not otherwise have," said Mike Kuttel, WDFW outdoor partnerships manager. "The coalition is also committed to strengthening existing kids' fishing, hunter education and first-time hunter opportunities."
"Participation in the youth outdoor education effort is a great way to invest in our grandchildren's future," said Ed Forslof, WWF education and outreach director.
Washington Wildlife Coalition member organizations currently include the Washington State Archery Association, Evergreen Archers, the Washington State Council of Trout Unlimited, Back Country Horsemen of Washington, Camp Fire USA (Lower Columbia Council), Richland Rod and Gun Club, Washington State Federation of Fly Fishers, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, National Wild Turkey Federation (Washington State Council), Cast for Kids Foundation, Natural Resources Youth Camp, Portland Safari Club International, Washington Hunter Education Instructors' Association, Woodland Park Zoo Wildwise, Eyes In the Woods Association, Inc., Walleyes Unlimited, Kittitas County Field and Stream Club and the Columbia Basin Walleye Club.
Other organizations interested in joining the coalition should contact Kyle Winton, WWF executive director, at (360) 705-1903 or Kuttel at (360) 902-2184. More information on the pilot youth outdoor education donation concept and the "Go Play Outside" partnership can be found on the WDFW website.